When COVID-19 started making headways in terms of spread and contagion, it changed our lives forever. Everything from how we met with friends and family to how we received medical care was fundamentally altered. Endodontic care was among those forms of medical treatment that had to adjust to the new normal. Adjustments to the process had to be made, and new guidelines were put in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Steps were taken to reduce viral transmission risks, altering how patient management was handled and what forms of treatment were recommended to keep everyone safe.
How can endodontic practitioners deliver the dental care their patients need without violating pandemic protocols? They achieve this by combining modern technologies with updated endodontic procedures that provide better care and protection. We’re going to explore some of the changes that have been made and what they imply for the future of endodontic treatment.
Covid-19 Screenings, Diagnosis, and Dental Visits
One of the main concerns about ongoing dental care was the risk of transmission posed by office visits. Personal Protection Equipment is costly and was becoming increasingly difficult to come by as the pandemic drug on. Staying ahead of these issues meant taking immediate action to limit transmission rates by altering the way treatment was performed. While every practice took its own approach, there were a few fundamental steps taken to keep everyone safe.
We’re going to expand on some of the common processes and what they mean for patients. In the majority of cases, endodontic referrals are due to complex oral health cases. Mouth infections, abscesses, and tooth pain from non-standard sources are the leading causes of endodontic visits. Diagnosis is much more focused on less common forms of infection and decay rather than standard cleanings and cavities. Pre-treatment is a leading priority for endodontists working to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission. Some ways this is accomplished are:
- Telehealth Screenings: The most important component to reducing the spread of the virus was limiting the contact patients had with dental personnel and other patients. Telehealth screenings were an exceptional way to accomplish this, allowing patients to be screened at home. Further, there was a range of treatments that could be managed without the patient ever having to visit the office. Even some complex tooth problems can be taken care of no matter where a patient may be. It had the side-effect of improving care access in rural areas.
- Ruling out Non-Endo Symptoms: The diagnosis process was also aimed at improving the overall patient experience. These telehealth meetings gave the patient the opportunity to describe their symptoms and determine if endo treatment was actually required. By taking a focus on endodontic symptoms such as vestibular infections at the gumline and abscesses, endodontists were able to properly arrange for care. This could ease the need for follow-up appointments and ensure they were getting the proper care for their symptoms.
- Extra-Oral Imaging: When additional diagnostic elements are required, such as imaging, it’s important to reduce the spread of contaminants such as bodily fluids. Extra-oral imaging devices such as CBCT mean that the necessary images can be taken without ever having to touch the patient. This has numerous benefits, including improved image accuracy, reduced need for invasive procedures, and no contact or spread of bodily fluids.
These approaches have made it easier to plan treatments in greater detail, even in complex cases. The result is higher success rates, lower transmission, and better recovery times for the patient.
Receiving Endodontic Care During The Pandemic
Treating patients effectively and promptly is an essential part of the endodontic process. Developing a treatment plan involves considering the number of necessary visits to address the acute or chronic pain symptoms patients are experiencing. These visits are then assessed to determine which ones need to be physical visits and which ones can be accomplished using telehealth services. While a visit to the office can aid treatment in certain cases, it also exposes the patient to the risk of transmission. This has led to protocols being created to help reduce these risks and improve the patient experience.
- Reducing Treatment Times: Various treatments such as endodontic retreatments and root canals have undergone an evolution. New techniques were developed to reduce the amount of time that patients spent in the dental chair by enhancing efficiency. Less time in the chair means reduced risks of spreading infection. A few of these improvements involved better magnification techniques to speed identification, sanitation, and treatment of problem areas at clinics.
- Same-Day Treatments: Same-day treatments also serve to provide improved experiences for both patient and dentist. Calcified canals and necrotic pulp are significant concerns that can be painful and pose health risks. These same-day visits address concerns like these as well as eliminate cases like micro-leakage. Manual fluid-delivery systems and isolating the area with rubber dams also reduce the risk of transmission.
- Emergency Protocols: When an endodontic emergency occurs, these same-day protocols are used. However, there are additional emergency techniques that improve efficiency and ensure proper sanitation of the treatment room, treatment site, and PPE used. The goal is to emphasize the immediate treatment of the patient without impacting safety protocols to avoid transmission of COVID. Medication, same-day permanent treatments, and other elements all improve the outcome and reduce the risk patients face.
- PPC Equipment Procedures: Another essential element of this process involves implementing sanitization methods and regular use of PPE equipment to reduce transmission rates. While PPE has always been a part of medical care, the protocol surrounding using them has been altered to be more strict. Better grades of equipment, double-layering gloves, and even more thorough sterilization procedures have been implemented.
These factors are among those used to ensure that everyone remains safe as the pandemic rages on. A positive outcome of this is a permanent change in how care is provided and treatments are performed. Telehealth has truly arrived, and there’s no reason for it to leave common usage. The benefits to patients and providers alike have been astounding. Contact your office to find out what methods they’re using to help protect you and your family while making care more convenient.