FAYETTEVILLE — Some dentists in Arkansas are temporarily closing their clinics or delaying appointments to prevent the spread of covid-19.
Dr. Lindy Bollen, oral health director at the Arkansas Department of Health, said dentists should delay procedures that aren’t urgent.
Symptoms of covid-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC recommends people wash their hands, avoid close contact with sick people and avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths with unwashed hands.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
They should ask themselves, “can this wait three or four weeks?” he said.
The coronavirus could spread easily in dental clinics because it is transmitted through respiratory droplets, Bollen said. Dental patients keep their mouths open while being treated and could transmit the virus.
Monarch Dental — which has clinics in Fayetteville, Conway, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff — will conduct only urgent and emergency procedures until further notice, said Jody Martin, spokeswoman for the company. Monarch is also screening patients for covid-19.
Routine cleanings, cosmetic procedures, minor fillings and anything else that can wait will be postponed, she said. Monarch will continue to do major fillings and restorative work.
“The main focus is keeping people out of the ER,” Martin said.
The state isn’t mandating that dental clinics close because patients would seek treatment in emergency rooms, where they shouldn’t be during this pandemic, Bollen said.
The Health Department also wants to avoid people being prescribed opioids for pain, Bollen said.
Ocean Dental, which has clinics in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro and Little Rock, also is taking precautions, such as screening patients, rescheduling some appointments, training its staff in how to avoid infection and doing more cleaning inside its facilities, Erin Hudson of Ocean Dental said.
The Ocean Dental clinic in Little Rock was the only one still open as of Friday.
“Our goal is for our teams to remain healthy and provide safe, quality care so we are working within the guidance put out and relying on our dentists’ professional judgment to make that happen,” Hudson said.
The Arkansas State Dental Association agreed with the Health Department’s recommendation. The association issued guidance to dentists to monitor patient and employee temperatures, said Billy Tarpley, executive director of the association.
Patients experiencing respiratory symptoms, including cough or shortness of breath, or anyone with a fever should not go to the dentist, he said.
Arkansas Family Dental in Little Rock will reschedule appointments to minimize crowding in the waiting room and ask patients not to have relatives or friends accompany them to appointments, according to a statement posted on its website.
“As a precaution, we have implemented a more stringent process of cleaning and disinfecting in order to maintain a healthy environment,” the statement reads in part. “We have removed magazines, reading materials, toys and other objects that may be touched by others that cannot be easily disinfected. We have implemented a sanitizing station in the lobby for all patients and incoming personnel to disinfect their hands before heading back to the treatment area.”
SundayMonday on 03/23/2020