The BC Dental Association (BCDA) and our members understand that there is considerable concern and confusion about the effect of COVID-19 on dental care and community transmission. We continue to collaborate closely with public health on a range of issues to mitigate exposure for dental patients and support our members to provide emergency care as directed by public health and the College of Dental Surgeons of BC (CDSBC)
The sequence of evolving public health communications over the last few weeks speaks to the rapidly changing information and health policy surrounding containment of COVID-19.
On March 24, Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed that the self-isolation period for attendees of the Pacific Dental Conference is over. She also confirmed that public health has been in contact with all 32 affected attendees and any of their immediate contacts, emphasizing that if patients have not been contacted by public health, they do not need to be concerned.
On March 16, the College of Dental Surgeons of BC (CDSBC) strongly recommended that all elective and non-essential dental services be suspended to contain community spread of the virus. On March 23, the Provincial Health Officer also confirmed that she issued a letter to all regulated health professionals outlining her expectations for their response in this acute phase of the pandemic. Together, these requirements mean that dentists are now only treating urgent dental emergencies in their offices.
To provide emergency dental treatment safely, dentists and their staff must also have the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which includes specially fitted masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves.
Due to the widespread shortage of PPE, patients with dental pain, swelling, infection or trauma must first be assessed by their local General Practice dentist over the phone. To reduce the risk of transmission, only the most urgent dental cases will be referred to an appropriately equipped dental clinic for treatment. The BCDA and our members recognize that this is definitely not an optimal situation for patients, and look forward to resuming regular care protocols as soon as possible.
The BC government has launched a COVID-19 Support App & Self-Assessment Tool to provide information or determine if you may need testing. The app can be installed on smartphones or viewed as a website. A dedicated information phone line is also available for people who want to check their health status. The toll-free line is open at 1-888-268-4319 (1-888-COVID19) 7:30am - 8pm PST seven days a week for non-medical information about COVID-19, including information on travel and physical distancing, and access to support and services from the provincial and federal governments.