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Coronavirus Impact: Dentists waiting to reopen offices

Posted at 7:15 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 23:14:12-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- With hospitals now able to schedule elective surgeries, there are question about when dentists can start to perform non-emergency procedures.

Vikki, who declined to use her last name, is a San Diego dental patient waiting for an appointment.

“I can’t close my teeth together and I can’t eat properly,” Vikki said. She said her dentist is not able to see her because her dental work is not considered an emergency.

“I can get my carpet cleaned, I can have my whole house remodeled, I can do all these crazy things. How in the world can a dentist not be an important critical service?” Vikki questioned.

In an April 27th memo, the California Department of Public Health stated wrote that one of the considerations for resuming services includes “an adequate stock of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).”

“It’s really hard getting N95 masks,” said Dr. Richard Nagy, the president of the California Dental Association. “The frontline healthcare workers are really commanding all the PPE out there, which they need to to treat people who’ve been sick.”

Nagy said dental offices, “historically, have been known to [have] one of the most pro-infection control policies of almost any profession.” He said they hope dentists can fully reopen their practices within a few weeks, but they are waiting for direction from state officials.

When offices do fully reopen, there will likely be many changes. Nagy said that includes taking patient’s temperature and staggering patients to maintain social distance. If N95 masks are not available, he said they will use a level 3 mask and face shield.

Dr. Sinan Alhamdi of Del Mar Dental Arts in Carmel Valley is one local dentist open for emergency procedures. They have been working with different suppliers to try and get more PPE. While the closure has been a huge financial hit, their priority is safety.

“I want to go back to normal sooner than later, but I don’t want to risk anybody’s health or compromise anything,” Dr. Alhamdi said.