Dental restrictions lifted slightly in Delaware

Routine cleanings remain unavailable, but dentists will now do more during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a message to nearly 400 members this week, Delaware State Dental Society President Dr. Cathy Harris outlined increasing care for some non-emergency needs.

“In addition to providing emergency/urgent dental care, Delaware dentists are advised to treat previously diagnosed oral conditions where, in the clinician’s opinion, harm would occur to the patient if left untreated,” Dr. Harris said.

Now, for example, chipped and broken teeth can be fixed, along with cavities that could significantly worsen if not treated soon.

“It gives patients the security of knowing they can do a filling if they choose,” Dr. David Deakyne Jr. of Smyrna said. “They also have the option of delaying and not coming in if they’re uncomfortable with it. So it’s all up to them.”

Dr. Harris’s entire message is posted online at delawarestatedentalsociety.org.

DSDS consulted with the Delaware Division of Public Health during the original process and latest modification, Dr. Harris said. Deemed part of an essential industry in March, dentists statewide opted to see emergency-only patients, and delay other needed but less serious treatments.

“Our main concern was that we were putting Band-Aids on things that weren’t going to hold very much longer,” Dr. Harris said of increasing services. “We’ll still follow safe social distancing and best health practices as we (open up a bit more and begin to see more patients.)”

Elective and preventive appointments are still unavailable until Phase 1 of Delaware’s official recovery plan launches at a still-undetermined time, according to the DSDS.

“We recognize that by limiting our practices to these services, general dentists will only treat 30-40% of their normal patient volume and specialty offices will decrease their normal patient volume as well,” Dr. Harris said.

According to Dr. Deakyne, patient flow has dropped up to 70% during the COVID-19 crisis, driven largely by the temporary ban on hygiene-related visits to Deakyne Dental Associates in Smyrna. Just two days into the shift, the dentist said he was unsure how much the modifications would affect the number of visits.

West Dover Dental Associates Dr. Kathy L. Redden said she’s fielded calls for weeks about pressing needs, only to decline treatment at the time due to suggested restrictions. Without treatment on a deep cavity, a root canal procedure may be required, she said. Temporary fillings for a root canal could crack and cause more damage before a permanent fix, she said. Additional swelling and abscesses could heighten negative consequences if not treated as well.

Seeing additional patients will help Dr. Deakyne ease into an eventual full load mode where social distancing and regular sanitization will be at the forefront of all visits.

“Adding more restorative procedures now gives us an idea of how to evaluate what works best as our traffic into the office increases,” he said.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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