Dr. Colin Nash, the president of the Yukon Dental Association and dentist, poses for a photo in Whitehorse on May. 12. Nash wants to assure people that dental services are still available during the pandemic but they will be different than before. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

How to get dental care during the pandemic

It all starts with a phone call

A Yukon dentist wants to assure people that dental services are still available during the pandemic but they will be different than before.

Dr. Colin Nash, the president of the Yukon Dental Association, spoke with the News on May 11 about dental care.

Nash said that patients should be phoning their dentist first and foremost. Most dentists in the territory are monitoring their office phone and cellphones. If the person in question does not have a dentist, he encourages such individuals to phone a local dental office.

Once the patient gets in touch, the triage stage begins.

There are questions asked to patients that pertain to COVID-19, including those about any symptoms, past travel, isolation practices and contact with others.

“That will help determine the risk factor of them having COVID-19,” Nash said.

He warns that there are limited services dentists can provide due to orders from the chief medical officer of health.

“We can kind of only give urgent or emergent care,” Nash said.

There are some procedures and treatments that will not be available. Doctors will speak with patients to determine if they need to be seen in person or if other ways of treating a patient are available.

There are options of phone and video conferencing appointments.

“Teledentistry is being used a lot more during COVID than it has in the past,” Nash said.

He said working this way can be challenging but he can still get a good handle on what is going on with a patient, but that physically examining a patient’s teeth is a superior method.

He gave some examples of what is not considered urgent — like routine examinations, radiographs, cleanings and preventative therapies. The majority of orthodontic procedures also fall into the non-urgent category.

Restorative work, like treating small cavities or starting a new crown or bridge are not urgent either.

Nash also gave some examples of what could be done at this time — urgent or emergency care are treatments that dentists would do no matter what. They usually occur when oral or facial trauma is involved.

Serious infections or prolonged bleeding in the oral cavity fall into this category too. He said anything that could be affecting the patient’s airway would be urgent.

Treating pain that cannot be managed with over-the-counter medication is also urgent.

More care could be given to low-risk patients. In this case the patient must be a low-risk for COVID-19 and the procedure itself must have little risk. This covers things like deep cavities, third molar pain, a dry socket from a past extraction or treating a tooth that was knocked out.

Nash said it is important to phone a dentist to go over your conditions. The dentist will be able to figure out if what you need is emergency care or if your issue can be treated by other means.

“Definitely phone the dentist, we’re here to try to help you,” Nash said.

He adds that it is important to not have people not go to the emergency room at Yukon hospitals because those need to be open for other matters.

Nash hopes people are taking care of themselves, including brushing their teeth twice per day, flossing once per day and using mouthwash as needed.

“Hopefully if they take real good care of themselves, they will never need our services,” Nash said.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com