On Monday June 29th, the Quebec government announced that Covid-19 rules for dentists are being relaxed. Dental offices in the province only fully opened one month ago, after being told in mid-March that all appointments for non-urgent treatments and preventive care were to be postponed to a later date. They were only allowed to see patients who required emergency treatmentdue to an infection, acute pain or trauma and in need of immediate care.
Since they reopened, strict protocols were put in place as ordered by the government: physical distancing measures needed to be respected, patients needed to be screened for the virus, personal protective equipment needed to be worn (N95 masks, visors, gloves and gowns) and they had to have proper air filtration systems in place. Although cumbersome at the time, dentists agreed the rules were needed, mostly due to aerosols caused by the turbines they use in many procedures that could spread the virus. However, as the numbers of cases in Quebec drop and businesses are reopening, dentists have now been advised that N95 masks, visors and gowns are no longer necessary – as long as patients have no Covid-19 symptoms. But how can they be sure, with only patients temperatures being taken and a few question asked?
One dentist I spoke with, who preferred not to be named, felt concerned about people who might have the virus and are asymptomatic. She felt the government was moving too fast, with the virus still around and the numbers of cases potentially ‘exploding’ at any time. Another dentist, my own, also not wanting to be named, felt differently – stating that protective measures have always been in place and using rubber dams effectively stops any aerosols. His dental assistant however, is choosing to continue wearing the full protective gear. In the ODQ (Ordre des Dentistes du Quebec) recent guide, they state dentists are still required to maintain frequent handwashing, disinfecting and physical distancing. It is expected there will still be many dentists who will remain diligent and continue to wear all their equipment including the N95 masks, visors, gloves and gowns – until more is known about the spread of the virus or a vaccine is found.