RI Dental Association preparing phased approach for reopening offices


WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Dental Association (RIDA) is working with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office and the R.I. Department of Health to figure out when dental practices can reopen.

RIDA says it’s preparing a phased approach using guidelines already in place to minimize risk to patients and staff. This includes social distancing, pre-screening patients before appointments, having a limited amount of people in the waiting room at once, and staggering appointments.

“Rhode Island Hospital is currently testing all patients going to the operating room and especially those patients undergoing aerosol-generating procedures,” Dr. Steven Brown said in a news release Friday. “Dentistry should be no different. The access and use of appropriate PPE will be necessary moving forward and some offices may not be able to open without it.”

RIDA says its will submit draft guidelines to Raimondo’s office and health department next week.

During the first few weeks of the pandemic, dentists around Rhode Island donated more than 10,000 surgical masks, several hundred boxes of gloves, face shields, disposable gowns and protective suits to local hospitals, according to RIDA.

“Our dentists really came through and donated as much PPE as they could at the beginning of this crisis, but now is the time to start thinking longer-term about restoring PPE supplies to dental practices,” Brown added. “We know patients have put off necessary procedures because of the pandemic. As we begin to prepare for the next phase, we do not want delayed procedures to turn into larger health care issues.”

Local dentists are still on call for emergency dental needs, RIDA said, and some are treating patients undergoing cancer treatment or about to undergo a cardiac procedure.

“Hospitalized patients sometimes have dental needs which need to be addressed before other treatment can begin. We have to be able to treat these patients regardless of their COVID status.” explained Dr. Elizabeth Benz, director of Samuels Sinclair Dental Clinic.

RIDA also said many dentists have been conducting swabbing tests for COVID-19 since they’re familiar with the anatomy of the nasal area.

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