The Covid 19 pandemic has altered the world for all of us. The practice of dentistry has been hit exceptionally hard considering dentistry is one of the highest risk professions for the corona virus. A poll of 19,000 dentists conducted by the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute showed staggering results. As of April 4, 2020 that survey reported 29.4% of Pennsylvania dental offices have totally shut down. 70.2% of Pennsylvania dental offices are seeing only emergency patients, leaving the remaining .4% of dental offices open but reported low patient volume.
Until dental offices are given the authorization to resume full practice, they will be following very strict procedural guidelines for treating patients. If you are experiencing a true dental emergency, reach out to your dentist. Some dental offices can provide teledentistry. With the proper and secure computer access in place, the dentist can remotely review your dental file and view previously taken x-rays from the safety of his/her home. Even though some HIPAA restrictions have been temporarily lifted, most are still being enforced.
You may be asked to download a form, complete, scan and return it to the office giving the dentist consent to treat you remotely. If you do not have scanning capability then you may need to complete the form, take a picture of it with your phone and then text or email that photo to the dentist or office.
Once the dentist receives your written approval, they may ask to call/video chat or even reach out to you via sources such as ZOOM. Do not be surprised if they ask to record the conversation. This entire consultation needs to be documented just like an onsite dental visit. The American Dental Association has procedure codes for teledentistry but insurance carriers may not cover these charges. The dentist is still providing care, even if it is remotely, and they should be paid for their services.
If the dentist feels you do need to be seen in the office, PLEASE do not take other people into the office with you. You need to limit personal contact as much as possible. If you need someone to drive you then ask them to wait in the car. Also do not expect full dental treatment. Emergency services only.
These are very trying times but if we listen to science, play by the rules and be patient we will all get through this together. Jewish Family Service remains open with all staff working remotely. If you need to talk, we are here to listen.