MAINE, USA — Dentists across Maine are urging Governor Mills to revise her restrictions on dental care during the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
Right now, dentists are only allowed to perform emergency procedures, and according to many dentists, that is going to have serious implications for Mainers long term oral health.
Dentists say they are seeing some patients suffering infections and other a lot of other preventable problems because they have not been treated.
Maine is one of 11 states that has not already allowed dental practices to reopen and it's the only state without a reopening plan.
At the University of New England's Oral Health Center in Portland, it's quiet. Normally it's bustling with dental students providing care to more than 600 patients a week.
But due to COVID-19, the dental students and practicing dentists throughout Maine can only perform emergency care. And dentists are seeing the effects of that.
"The progression of the disease is inevitable it's devastating in all health care systems including oral care," said Dr. Jon Ryder, the dean of UNE's College of Dental Medicine.
Because routine dental visits are out, right now, the only time dentists are able to see someone is in an emergency when that patient is already in a lot of pain.
"These are minor or may have been minor cases that are transitioning into emergency situations."
According to the latest data from American Dental Association, Maine is one of only 11 states that has not already allowed dental practices to reopen for routine care and the only state that does not have a reopening plan.
Dr. Jon Ryder says not having a plan going forward is the most frustrating part.
"I'm not advocating for something premature. We want to follow the CDC guidelines, follow proper protocol but I think some timeline in place and a plan is better instead of saying things are closed indefinitely."
Right now, Maine officials say guidance from the CDC in Atlanta does not recommend allowing routine dental care.
Maine DHHS commissioner Jeanne Lambrew says that guidance is supposed to be updated by the C-D-C by May 18th. And if it doesn't come by then she said: "the department will defer to the American Dental Association and the Maine Dental Association's guidance on that topic."
Dr. Ryder says whatever the plan going forward, dentists will be able to treat their patients safely.
"Dentists are already really risk management experts, we're trained to understand and mitigate the spread of disease right from the beginning."
Dr. Brad Rand, the President of the Maine Dental Association is hoping to meet with Commissioner Lambrew in the coming days to talk about a safe re-open strategy for patients, employees and Maine dentists.
At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus