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Need a cavity filled? Dentists in Maine can now re-open for routine care during COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic

For months, dentists could only provide emergency services, which many argued was jeopardizing the long term oral health of Mainers.

MAINE, USA — Editor’s note: You've probably heard the term ‘flattening the curve’ as a way to stem the tide of coronavirus cases. The above video explains what that means. 

After months of only dealing with emergencies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Brad Rand, a dentist in Brewer, opened his doors to patients who need routine care.

"Today is the first day we're going through new routines and new protocols we have in place to keep people safe in our office," Dr. Rand said.

Dr. Rand, who is also President of the Maine Dental Association, says allowing dental offices in Maine to reopen for routine visits is a relief to patients and dentists.

"There were patients that have some really complex work that was becoming even more complex by the day that didn't quite rise to the emergency level but was still becoming very concerning."

Last week, dentists across Maine urged Governor Mills to revise her restrictions on dental care during the pandemic. 

Dentists were saying patients were suffering from infections and other problems because they haven't been treated.

RELATED: Dentists say patients are suffering because routine care can't resume due to coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic

Credit: NCM
Empty dental chair at UNE's Oral Health Center during Covid-19 pandemic

At the time, Maine's DHHS commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said if new guidance from the US CDC was not updated by May 18, the state would defer to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Maine Dental Association (MDA) which recommends reopening for routine care. 

Those new federal guidelines haven't been revised yet, so dentists in Maine can now reopen for non-emergency procedures as long as they're following guidance from the ADA and MDA, are equipped with personal protective equipment, and are prioritizing care for patients with more time-sensitive conditions.

"We are seeing a limited number of people who we felt needed to get in and start to get some of their dental needs taken care of," said Dr. Rand of his Brewer dental practice.

Dr. Rand says patients will most likely see changes when they go back to their dentist. 

"I think as patients come in they will see there has been some care and thought given to how to keep them safe as they come to our practices."

May 18 is a voluntary opening date, it is not mandatory for dental offices in Maine to open for routine care. 

RELATED: Maine CDC eliminates COVID-19 testing prioritization, says anyone can now seek testing

Dr. Jon Ryder, the dean of UNE's College of Dental Medicine said their plan is to go slowly over the next two months. 

"Staring the first week in June, we will expand our emergency care by including some senior students as providers, and then every two weeks will expand a little more starting with patients with time-sensitive needs. There will still be a maximum limit to the total number of patients and providers in the building at any given time to allow for physical distancing. This will continue indefinitely. Our simulation clinic will also be starting with limited numbers in June."

Dr. Rand recommends anyone who has a dental issue and hasn't heard from their provider about its reopening plans should give their dentist office a call.

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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

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