MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Dentists are one of the final health care services allowed to reopen. New safety and social distancing rules have been put in place.

But dentists, themselves, say it hasn’t been easy.

It has been emergency cases only in the detail chair.

Zoe Brisman, 12, was allowed to see her Mineola orthodontist to fix painful protruding wires.

“One of my braces will just snap or break,” she told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Following new state guidelines, she and her mom waited in the parking lot for a text to enter. Her temperature was taken, health questions were answered, hands were sanitized and her mouth was rinsed.

“It’s amazing to watch all the dentists rally together, work together to establish protocols,” said Dr. Steve Luccarelli. “We are all ready.”

Dr. Luccarelli said they’re ready but have been kept waiting for months. Unlike their medical doctor colleagues, until now, dentists were not considered essential and offices were closed except for emergencies.

Dr. David Jones, of Manhasset, called it a dangerous oversight.

“Dentistry has been the pioneer in mitigating the spread of viruses and pathogens,” he explained.

MORE: Coronavirus Measures Taking A Big Bite Out Of Dentists’ Time For Tooth-Sore Patients

Pediatric dentists worry that decay was allowed to flourish, creating bigger and more costly problems for children.

“Preventative care is huge for us, and a small cavity a few months ago might be an extraction now,” said Dr. Michele Alstodt. “Baby teeth are very important.”

Many adult patients who suffer from gum disease, need extractions, crowns or implants have been told by the state to wait.

Meanwhile, dentists were advised to stock up on massive amounts of shields, masks and disposable surgical gowns.

“Think of the impact on the environment if I were to wear a disposable gown for every patient,” Dr. Ruth Randi, of Garden City, said.

To cut back on PPE pollution, Dr. Randi has quadrupled the number of cotton uniforms to dentists and staff and hired a laundry service to come every other day to wash and sterilize.

It will be a whole new world in the dentist office — shields, Plexiglass and a host of protocols to protect patients.

It’s the dentists, assistants and hygienists who are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19.


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