Illinois Dental Group Sounds Alarm on COVID-19 Impacts
DecisionOne Dental Partners is calling on State and Federal agencies to work with professional dental associations and frontline dentists to develop a proactive plan to adjust oral healthcare practices during the coronavirus pandemic. Though recommendations have been issued for dentists to limit services to "emergency dental care" additional guidance is needed as to which essential dental services may become emergency needs if left untreated for weeks or months, particularly if such recommendations soon become mandates.
"There are two urgent issues for dentists with regards to taking care of patients during this time," said Dr. AJ Acierno, CEO of DecisionOne Dental. "We need to focus care on true dental emergencies for all patients while also providing essential services so that more emergencies are not created. And we need to have a plan for taking care of COVID-19 patients who need emergency and essential dental care. All of this needs to be done so that dental care practitioners are as safe from the virus as possible."
To address the first need, DecisionOne has developed a list of services and procedures for its 50 dentists across Illinois and Wisconsin labeling each as "emergency, essential or non-essential." The list is publicly available for fellow dentists. Additionally, each of DecisionOne's 31 dental offices is proactively engaging with all patients to determine on a case-by-case basis of when, where and how to provide "emergency and essential" dental care. "If essential services are not provided, more dental emergencies will develop and if dental offices are not open, patients will go to the hospitals and we cannot put additional burdens on our healthcare system right now," said Acierno.
Dentists, hygienists, and office staff at DecisionOne Dental are not allowed to work if they show any symptoms related to COVID-19, and no staff is required to work at all. "We are on the frontlines of exposure and not everyone is able to take this risk so we are working together to treat our patients collectively," said Acierno. All patients who require emergency and essential dental care will be pre-screened with regards to possible coronavirus exposure, and when possible will be urged to get tested medically for the virus.
With regards to treating patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and require emergency and essential dental care, DecisionOne Dental is calling on government health officials to immediately create a task force to develop care guidelines. "The truth is no one knows how long this pandemic will last and there will absolutely be people who have the coronavirus who need emergency dental care. They may be healthy otherwise but are highly contagious. How and where will dentists provide care to these people? How will we protect the safety of oral care providers? We can't wait for this eventuality, we need a plan now," said Acierno.