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April 7, 2020
COVID-19 Update – Continuity of Care
The College has received a large number of calls from patients who believe they may have a dental emergency but cannot find a dentist to see them. In some cases, their regular dentist has closed the office and left a voicemail message, directing them to a local hospital, a local dental emergency service or even the College for assistance.
During this exceptional time, this is not adequate or appropriate.
All dentists have professional, legal and ethical responsibilities to provide or arrange for dental emergency treatment for their patients. Do not leave your office voicemail and email unmonitored; check your messages regularly and return the calls of your patients.
Continuity of care requires that patients of record have access to their primary care provider for guidance on emergency care, including pharmacological management of pain. All emergency cases should be triaged by telephone first by taking a verbal history of the patient’s condition and providing appropriate pharmacotherapy if indicated.
If telephone management is insufficient, clinical assessment may be necessary, provided the dental practice has appropriate safety precautions and PPE in place. If your dental practice does NOT have required safety precautions in place to manage emergency cases in person, you are still responsible to triage emergency care via telephone first and then by referral to a nearby dental or specialty practice that can provide such care.
The Ontario government has appealed to all Ontarians to do their part during the current crisis. For dentists, that means continuing to use appropriate clinical judgement and providing continuity of care. This is essential to ensure that your patients receive guidance and dental emergencies do not burden hospital emergency departments.