What COVID-19 restrictions mean for dental patients

IT is too early to know whether the Far North's oral health public waiting list will blow back out due to dental clinic closures.

Since late last month, dental practices have been urged to restrict their services to essential treatment and procedures.

James Cook University's Dental Clinic at Smithfield, which has been treating public patients since 2011, has joined clinics nationwide that have suspended their operations.


"Current evidence points towards dental clinics as being potentially high-risk areas for transmission of COVID-19 through aerosols, droplets and contact with saliva," a JCU Dental spokesman said.

"The last thing we would want to do is to put our patients or staff at risk, or to increase the spread of COVID-19 in the local community."

Dr Norah Ayad, ADAQ President.
Dr Norah Ayad, ADAQ President.

The JCU clinic has been credited with helping slash public oral heath waiting list times in the Far North by as much as four years by allowing dentistry students to study, train and work locally.

Australian Dental Association Queensland president Dr Norah Ayad said she did not believe the temporary loss of the JCU Dental Clinic would have any profound effect on public oral health waiting lists, but it was still too early to tell.

She said the association had been assured there would be no region left unserviced for public dental treatment during the pandemic.

"At the moment, everything should be hold with routine treatment, but emergency care is still being addressed," she said.

"We're not really going to know the impact on the waiting list until we get out of the pandemic. "These closures are only temporary, so we'll … basically get back to assisting the region in terms of reducing the public waiting list."

Meanwhile, the ADA has issued a new item number on its schedule of dental services, to allow telehealth consultations.

Association president Dr Carmelo Bonanno said with the new item number, patients would be able to seek advice either with videoconferencing or by phone from their dentist.

"Consultations in this way are not meant to be a replacement for your normal preventive checks - it's for patients with an acute event such as toothache, broken tooth or damaged dentures … or bleeding from their gums," he said.

Originally published as What COVID-19 restrictions mean for dental patients