Dental surgeons postpone elective procedures to combat COVID-19 spread

Dental surgeons postpone elective procedures to combat COVID-19 spread
A dental surgeon looks at an image of a patient's mandible on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Dental surgeons in Tucson are postponing elective procedures to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (Source: KOLD News 13)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends dentists nationwide postpone elective procedures and local practices are taking that to heart.

“[The ADA has] really left the choices up to the individual dental practices but suggested basically treatment that can wait, should wait, as we all help to try to contain this coronavirus,” Dr. Robert Wood, a Tucson oral and maxillofacial surgeon, said.

He says staff at Arizona Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons are rescheduling all elective procedures, which includes things like routine cleanings, fillings and crowns. Appointments will be moved to April 1st and later.

Only emergency procedures will be performed.

“That would be conditions that are producing ongoing pain, broken or fractured teeth that are interfering with chewing, talking or appearance, recent trauma,” Wood said. “These are people that have generally been involved in some type of accident or sometimes an altercation. It can range from facial lacerations, intraoral lacerations, cut lips and teeth that have been knocked out of place.”

When it comes to dire dental or facial trauma, Wood urges people to see a specialist instead of going to the hospital.

“The whole concern for the healthcare system, in general, is to not overwhelm the hospitals and affect the care of others,” he said. “So, if we can keep those folks out of the hospital, we can help the healthcare system in general.”

Wood said staff is also taking steps to limit the number of people in waiting rooms at both the Tucson and Oro Valley locations.

“We are also trying to avoid people congregating in our lobby, so we have asked patients to come by themselves. If they need someone to accompany them or are a minor, we try to limit the number of friends or family members that are allowed in," he said. "As soon as business is done, we have those extra folks wait outside or in their vehicles to minimize the number of people that are in the office so we can maintain that social distancing.”

Anyone needing emergency dental work but displaying signs of COVID-19 will be asked to go to the hospital, Wood said.

He suggests those needing care call their general dentists first.

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