ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The World Health Organization recommends that people delay seeing the dentist for routine check-ups, to help minimize transmission in the age of COVID-19. But dentists at Eastman Institute for Oral Health said they – along with the American Dental Association — strongly disagree.
Dr. Eli Eliav, director of Eastman Institute for Oral Health, said the WHO recommendation is reminiscent of March, where dentists were providing emergency care only. But, after learning more about the virus and the transmission, dentists are saying there’s no need to return to that. They said their practice is not only safe and updated, but also critically important for patients to maintain their oral health.
“Delaying dental treatment further will cause harm to our patients,” said Eliav. He said preventative care and check-ups are just as important as emergency care.
Dr. Yan-Fang Ren of Eastman Institute for Oral Health agreed, and said during the time dental offices were closed for non-urgent visits in March, emergency patients doubled. That’s because patients were missing out on important routine care. Without the preventative care, problems will escalate in patients, bringing them to the emergency clinic.
Eliav and Ren said a full emergency clinic isn’t normal.
“For three months we saw here about 5,000 emergency visits from 48 counties. Those patients were only treated for pain and infection, and no comprehensive care they should have had. Delaying treatment may affect overall health, not just the oral cavity,” said Eliav.
There’s also new preventative measures and PPE in place to keep patients and staff safe and comfortable.
“There are about 40,000 publications about this disease, so we know a lot more, and we are pretty sure protective measures are very effective,” said Ren.
“Every patient is screened before entering building, we maintain social distancing,” said Eliav. “We are wearing extra PPE, all providers have N95 respirators, facial masks on top of that, hair covers, face shields, gowns and disinfectant of the room.”
The bottom line is, if you miss a routine check-up, you could be risking infection and cavities, according to Ren and Eliav.
“Oral care is very important, so if you delay you will run into trouble,” said Ren. “If you don’t do that routine check-up, bacteria will build up on teeth and gums, so gum infection or cavities will progress to a degree of pain and infection … you have to come to urgent care and a treatment much more complicated will be needed. You want to come in early, and prevent this from happening,” he said.
The clinic currently has an outdoor mobile for emergency screenings, and a tent outside to socially distance patients as they wait.
“We think we can move forward while providing better and more comprehensive care while taking better measures,” said Eliav.
Eliav said they’ve extended their hours, and added weekend availability, so patients are spaced out.
He said if someone is high-risk, and concerned about coming in, they should call to work through a solution to feel comfortable.