DENVER, May 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- This week on a special edition of the Monday Morning Radio small business podcast, a panel of four distinguished dentists examines the tug-of-war between civil liberties, public health, and government oversight in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions.
The ramifications extend well beyond dentistry and healthcare, potentially impacting small business owners and professional practices throughout the nation.
The podcast is available from Apple Podcasts at https://tinyurl.com/MMR-Apple or directly from MondayMorningRadio.com.
Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter Dean Rotbart, this week's show examines the dilemma faced by dentists and their patients in the state of Maine, where, according to the expert panel, Governor Janet Mills has imposed some of the most draconian lockdown rules in the country.
Governor's Mills's proclamation essentially states that unless a patient presents in excruciating pain, Maine dentists must not treat those individuals, the panelists explain. That rules out vital periodontal prevention and treatment, early-stage cavities, and other oral health ailments - most of which will degrade to urgent or emergency conditions if neglected.
"By this mandate eight weeks ago to close our practices, we've abandoned our patients. If we did that on our own, we'd lose our license for abandonment," says Ted Morgan, DDS, a Gorham, Maine, dentist who is an executive board member in the Maine Academy of General Dentistry. "We've had people out there with no care for all this time," he laments.
Dr. Samuel B. Low, a past president of the American Academy of Periodontology and former American Dental Association trustee, warns that neglecting oral health for a month or more, especially for those most susceptible, can be a gateway to life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cancer.
"It's not just about teeth," Dr. Low says. "It's about the overall health of the citizens of the State of Maine. That's the priority."
Like many healthcare providers and business owners throughout America, the coronavirus restrictions have derailed the plans of Maine dentist Dr. David H. Pier, who practices in Rockport, Maine.
Dr. Pier was scheduled to open a second dental office last month to provide much-needed care to an underserved Maine community. However, the lockdown has mothballed his state-of-the-art operatory for now, and like too many business owners, left Dr. Pier facing the prospect of never opening.
"Everybody is excited about our new practice," Dr. Pier says. "Unfortunately, we've got this beautiful building sitting there empty."
Daniel Steinke, DDS, and his daughter, Hillary S. Caruso, DMD, operate Steinke & Caruso Dental Care in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, as well as a second practice in Sorrento. In normal times, the father-daughter pair offers a full range of dental services, including gum disease therapy, crowns and bridges, root canals, and orthodontics.
But most of their services don't meet Maine's definition of urgent or emergency care, so Dr. Steinke initially had to let go of 16 of his 22 employees, including his entire preventive hygiene department. He has since managed to call back some of the team members who were furloughed.
The irony, of course, as Dr. Low points out, is that dentists have always been the healthcare leaders when it comes to preventing the spread of contagious diseases in their offices, including HIV/AIDS, SARS, Zika, and the seasonal flu.
Dentistry boasts "one of the highest standards in infection control of any healthcare facility in the United States," Dr. Low notes. "We're the ones that are wearing gloves. We're the ones that are wearing masks. We're the ones that every time you leave that dental operatory, we've got a dental assistant coming in and wiping everything down to make sure that it's okay for the next patient coming in."
When dental patients and employees finally are able to return for regular preventive care and treatments, Dr. Low cautions that tighter restrictions likely will impose strict social distancing requirements, such as asking patients to wait in their cars until they are called.
"There'll be no more waiting room," he forecasts, adding that he is concerned about how the new rules will impact the price patients will have to pay for their dental care.
SOURCE Monday Morning Radio