Got a dentist appointment?
Although dentists and dental specialists are considered a critical part of Hawaii’s health care system, many are postponing elective procedures for three weeks, according to the Hawaii Dental Association, to comply with recommendations made by the American Dental Association.
The Hawaii Dental Association, which represents nearly 1,000 members, put the policy in place on March 16, when the ADA issued its recommendations, according to executive director Kim Nguyen.
Elective procedures include cleanings, restorations, elective prosthetic procedures, and oral exams.
“In order for dentistry to do its part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the ADA recommends dentists nationwide postpone elective procedures for the next three weeks,” said the ADA. “Concentrating on emergency dental care will allow us to care for our emergency patients and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments.”
Hawaii dentists will continue to respond to dental emergencies, said Nguyen, to be determined by each office on a case by case basis.
These cases may include tissue bleeding that causes pain, bacterial infections and traumas involving facial bones that could compromise the airways.
“It’s up to the dentist’s discretion,” said Nguyen. “The dentist has to take the patient’s oral health history and health history into account, along with the risk of having the patient in the office, as well as the risk to public safety to pursue that procedure.”
The heart of the profession, according to Nguyen, is the “one-on-one” close-up interaction with the patient during cleanings and treatment, which presents challenges during these times.
“We certainly want to make sure our patients are not in pain and we take care of them now,” she said. “At the same time we recognize we are one of several health care providers, and we have a role to help flatten the curve.”
In the meantime, patients are encouraged to keep up with brushing, flossing and oral health care, which is more important than ever during these postponements.
HDA says it will continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 pandemic with guidance from the state Health Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dentists who are seeing patients are advised to follow these guidelines to prevent potential exposure:
>> Pre-screen patients by phone prior to the visit by asking about recent travel history and current health. Specific COVID-19 symptoms are fever, coughing and shortness of breath. If the patient reports these symptoms, they should be referred to their primary care physician.
>> When possible, ask patients to remain in their cars instead of coming into the waiting room. Notify them by cell phone when you are ready to see them.
>> Minimize the number of patients in the reception area and maintain space between patients per CDC guidelines. Space out chairs in the waiting room and hallway.
>> Take temperature of all patients immediately upon arrival.
>> Have patients wash hands in the operatory and rinse with 1% hydrogen peroxide solution.
>> Clean and disinfect public areas frequently, including door handles, chairs and bathrooms.
>> Remove all reading materials and children’s toys/books from waiting rooms.