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Dentists allowed to do emergency procedures

NATCHEZ — Need to schedule a routine checkup at a Natchez dental office? For that, you will have to wait until after May 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through May 10, the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners’ COVID-19 pandemic guidelines only allow dentists to conduct emergency procedures.

Last week, the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners met and agreed to extend the order allowing dentists to only see emergency patients until

May 10. The order had been set to expire April 27 before it was extended.

The order is known as Phase 2 of the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners COVID-19 guidelines.

Phase 2 states that dentists can only perform essential services, including services for emergency patients, patients who are experiencing moderate tooth decay, severe tooth decay, fracture tooth repair pain, crowns, infection, swelling and initial therapy.

Dr. Brennan O’Brien of Brennan O’Brien dentist office in Natchez said emergency services are crucial even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important for us dentists to see just emergency infection and pain patients to limit the number of people that we come in contact with,” O’Brien said. “The main reason the board asked us to stay open was to help with the back flow of patients at the emergency rooms. The other part is when we took an oath to become doctors that we would be there for the public in good times and bad times.”

According to the guidelines, beginning May 11 through May 18, dentists will be allowed to perform non-essential services for low-risk patients only.

Non-essential services are defined as new patients, patients being recalled and patients needing bridges and new bandings on their teeth.

Low-risk patients are those who don’t have any severe illnesses, people not living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities and people with no chronic lung disease.

Under the guidelines, beginning May 18, dentists may perform essential and non-essential services to anyone.

Dallas Morris, general manager for Miss-Lou Family Dentistry, said his staff members are using different ways to contact their emergency patients about their procedures.

“We’re utilizing phone confrontations with what’s going on,” Morris said. “We’re trying to send forms electronically and we’re asking our patients to brush their teeth prior to us coming. All of our scheduled patients are to remain in their vehicles and they should call or text when they arrive at the dental office.”

Morris said that before any patients step into any dental office, a staff member meets the patient at their car, where the patients’ temperature is taken. Then, the patient comes into the office and is sent to a sanitizing station to rinse their month and wash their hands. Finally, a patient is led back to an examination room to see their doctor for their emergency appointment.

Connie Graves, office manager at Dr. Brennan O’Brien’s office, said at the beginning of the pandemic she didn’t know much about the virus.

“I have learned a lot about the virus, so it’s a bit scary to stay open,” Graves said. “I find it very challenging because our office is mandated by the Mississippi Dental Board to what we can and can’t do with high-risk patients. It’s very challenging and you have a lot that you have to keep up with and you have to be sure of. I also feel proud that I’m still working during this time because we have provided a necessity for our patients that have an infection or are in pain.”

For dental offices, some will have to wait until May 18 to reopen their offices to all patients.

“We’re hoping that the virus will pass sooner than later,” Morris said. “We’re wishing everyone the best.”