Dentists reopen but here’s what has changed
Brisbane dentists began seeing patients for the first time in a month this week after the Federal Government moved from level 3 to level 2 restrictions.
But periodontists still cannot operate, elective minor procedures are banned, a lot of bridge and crown work is off limits and ultrasonic teeth cleaning is also not allowed.
The good news is patients can book appointments for pain treatment, denture work, orthodontics and fillings - if a dentist uses a rubber dam, which shields the oral cavity.
Oral surgeons are also starting to return to work.
St Lucia Dental, which has seven dentists, three therapists and treats more than 12,000 patients, reopened the doors to its modern, multi-level practice on Monday - and business has been brisk.
"We've spent the month off updating all the COVID control measures and getting ready to come back safely,'' owner and dentist Dr Angus Quinn said.
"We take your temperature when you arrive, there's hand sanitiser at the door, we're reducing traffic flow through the practice and the appointments are longer so we can wipe everything down twice.
"Because we're on two storeys, children are treated downstairs to keep them away from adult patients upstairs to reduce any possibility of asymptomatic transmission from kids.
"We also use a balloon over the tooth, hypochlorite (a type of bleach) the teeth and use high-speed suction to remove aerosols.
"We have level 2 masks and shields as well.''
Dr Quinn said the cost of protective gear had gone through the roof, with a box of Australian-standard masks soaring from $3 to $50.
He was concerned the prolonged shutdown and extra safety protocols could see older dentists decide to retire early, or lead to the closure of smaller practices.
However, the Australian Dental Association said while that had seemed a real possibility when it looked like the country faced a six-month shutdown, the short closure should mean most dentists would continue.
"We're not at normal dentistry but we can still do some work,'' ADA president Dr Carmelo Bonanno said.
"At the time (when level 3 restrictions came in) some dentists were thinking about early retirement and several weeks into it we acknowledged some businesses might not come through.
"We would now think most, if not all, should recover. A lot of businesses have been left far worse off than ours and of course some people have lost their lives, so we are lucky.''
Dr Bonanno said the ADA did not keep figures on how many practices had closed but he believed the majority would now be open again, in some capacity.
Originally published as Dentists reopen but here's what has changed