Dentist: Closure of practices impacts patients’ oral health

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A Johnston dentist believes dentistry is an essential business, but argues that it hasn’t been treated as such throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Rupesh Udeshi, dentist and co-owner of Dental Associates of Rhode Island, said the months his practice was closed had a big impact on the health of many of his patients.

“We’ve had a great backlog and problems that were minor, that have become major. The patient may have just had a cavity or needed a filling, but we haven’t seen them and it’s now more severe and it’s a root canal, and some people who maybe needed a root canal ─ now they need to have the tooth out,” he said.

The World Health Organization recently recommended delaying routine dental care because of the pandemic. But the American Dental Association says they “respectfully yet strongly disagrees.”

“Oral health is integral to overall health. Dentistry is essential health care,” ADA President Chad Gehani said in a statement. “Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.”

Since March, the ADA says dentists have been forced to close their practices and postpone all non-emergency appointments.

Gehani argues that it is possible to safely allow dental practices to remain open with the proper protocols in place.

“Millions of patients have safely visited their dentists in the past few months for the full range of dental services,” Gehani said. “With appropriate PPE, dental care should continue to be delivered during global pandemics or other disaster situations.”

Udeshi agrees, saying that his practice is following all of the recommended guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ADA.

“There is such a huge connection between the mouth and the rest of your body,” Udeshi said. “Any bacteria, any pathogen that is in your mouth, it flows into the rest of your body. It can lead to plaque in your arteries, heart conditions, it can add to other conditions you have ─ diabetes, high blood pressure.”

Dentists have been forced to improvise for certain procedures to reduce the number of airborne particles that are produced using certain tools. Instead of polishing a patient’s teeth during a routine cleaning, hygienists will likely hand scale plaque off of the enamel.

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