Kids' dentists balance safety with being friendly, gaining trust

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Action News coverage of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak

NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Pediatric dentists are weighing in on new guidelines, and how dental care for children will change due to extra precautions during and even after the pandemic.

Up until recently, only emergency dental care was allowed.

Dr Michael Koumaras of BestDentist4Kids has handled a few of them during the crisis.

"I've had 3 or 4 kids fall off their bikes and smash their permanent teeth," Dr. Koumaras notes.

With the new guidelines from the Pa. Department of Health, he plans to begin treating other problems soon, such as deteriorating fillings or medium-to-large cavities.

But other procedures are still off-limits, such as electronic cleanings, because they can push germs and viruses into the air.

According to Pennsylvania's new guidance, some non-emergency procedures are okay, as long as staff has PPE.

PPE won't be the only changes children and their families will see as they go back to dentists.

"Parents are going to wait in their car," says Dr. Koumaras.

"They'll get a text when their child's room is ready," he continued.

Just one parent will be allowed, to limit the number of people in the office.

Temperatures will also be checked, with staff behind the desk in masks, and anyone doing patient care head to toe in personal protective gear.

"So booties, and hats and face shields," he says.

Others may have to be done differently, with more basic techniques.

"We may just be using toothbrushes for a while and hand scaling because it creates less aerosol," he notes.

Dr. Koumaras also wonders if dentists are going to have to extract more teeth, if they are being discouraged from the current practice of doing whatever can to save teeth, because the drills might aerosolize coronavirus.

He was surprised to find no research on how viruses spread in dental work, but says there is an urgent need for it.

In the meantime, some dentists are calling for less restrictive guidelines.