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Wednesday 29 April 2020 5:15pm

Following advice from the Ministry of Health and the Dental Council (New Zealand), all non-essential and elective dental services at University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry clinics, including those provided at the Dunedin School of Dentistry, the University of Otago Auckland Dental Facility and the Te Kaika Niho Taniwhā Dental Clinic, are being cancelled until further notice.

This measure is being taken to reduce the risk of community spread of the COVID‑19 virus.

At this stage the Faculty of Dentistry will provide emergency treatment* and relief of pain services only, provided by experienced registered practitioners and experienced assistants.

Dental Treatment at COVID-19 Alert Level 3

The range of dental treatment offered under Alert Level 3 remains the same as under Alert Level 4.

Treatment in the Clinic is still restricted to urgent and emergency care ONLY – ie treatment which cannot be deferred.

All patients seeking treatment are required to register interest by making contact on 03 4798889. Following this, a clinician will call the patient back and ask a series of questions to triage the dental emergency. If a patient's dental condition can be accurately diagnosed and effectively managed without needing to see the patient, then that is best. In the majority of situations, effective management of a patient's dental infection, pain and/or trauma is possible with medication alone.

If professional judgement informs that the patient needs a face-to-face assessment, and/or treatment to effectively manage their urgent/emergency dental condition, an appointment will be made generally on the same day.

Carrying out dental procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic is considered high risk, requiring treating clinicians to wear additional protective items or PPE, including wearing a face shield and long-sleeved disposable gowns. This can all seem a bit intimidating if you have not experienced seeing clinicians wearing full protective equipment, but it is designed to keep both the patient and clinician safe.

Under both Alert Levels 3 and 4, aerosol generating procedures must be avoided where possible. Practically this means that use of dental equipment such as rotary handpieces, ultrasonic and sonic scalers, air-abrasion, air polishing and air syringes must be avoided where possible. Where use of such equipment is not avoidable, additional precautions must be taken, including providing treatment in a negative pressured fully enclosed space. To achieve this the Faculty has arranged the loan of a mobile dental unit from the Southern DHB which has been especially designed for managing patients requiring high-risk procedures. For patients identified as requiring high risk dental procedures, instructions will be provided about how to go about accessing the mobile dental unit separate to the dental school itself. For patients requiring low-risk dental procedures, appointments will be made at the Dental School Clinical Services Building.

We live in unprecedented times. The understanding and cooperation of patients is appreciated at this time, where constraints on treatment and additional clinical safety requirements may inform that some treatment needs to be deferred, or may take longer than usual to complete.

*Emergency treatment is defined as including oral-facial trauma, significant infection, prolonged bleeding or pain which cannot be managed by medications.

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