Let’s face it, there’s never a good time to have a toothache.
But having dental problems during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be especially challenging.
Many patients have been on wait-lists and just getting by with prescriptions for pain medications or antibiotics to tide them over since B.C. dentists suspended all elective and non-essential services as of March 16 to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In an effort to offer services in emergency cases, Williams Lake dentists Dr. Jigar Nandola and Dr. Eswar Mangala of Cariboo Dental Clinic have taken steps to create a negative pressure room this week in the basement of their clinic.
“We have been having a lot of calls from patients who are having problems with their teeth and they are in a lot of pain,” said Dr. Nandola, noting he and other dentists have had to refer patients out to Abbotsford and Kamloops for emergency treatment while their wait-list continues to grow.
“So we thought we would try and set something up in Williams Lake to see patients.”
Dr. Nandola and Cariboo Dental Clinic’s management enlisted the guidance of Dr. Ivan Scrooby, who was instrumental in setting up a negative pressure room in Cariboo Memorial Hospital for potential COVID-19 patients. Dr. Scrooby encouraged Dr. Nandola to offer the service, and in turn connected him with CMH maintenance worker Bruce Clements and maintenance supervisor Barry Riley, who created the room at the hospital. The two worked on the weekend to set up the new negative pressure room at Cariboo Dental Clinic.
A negative pressure room helps clean the air from the aerosols created during dentistry through powerful filtration. In combination with using a respirator and a full body suit, negative pressure rooms are being used to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus in the practice of medicine and emergency dentistry.
Dr. Nandola saw his first emergency patient Thursday (April 30) who was in pain and in need of a tooth extraction.
“It is difficult and there is a learning curve,” Dr. Nandola said of working with a respirator and body suit on.
“For emergencies it is fine. We are able to provide the services we were looking for to improve our patients’ quality of life.”
As well as the room and the gear, Dr. Nandola said COVID-19 restrictions have also increased the time between appointments, from 30 minutes for a tooth extraction to up to two hours to allow for treatment and extra cleaning of the room.
“With this set-up we could treat patients who has COVID in an emergency but we are asking anyone with symptoms not to come in.”
Dr. Nandola moved to Williams Lake from Toronto 11 months ago. He has lived in Canada about five years, and worked in dentistry in India for 12 years. He moved to the Cariboo with his wife, Monica, also a dentist, who is currently studying for the Canadian licensing exams.
As for starting his career in Canada in the middle of a pandemic, Nandola said it’s difficult.
“It is going to change a lot of things. This has been an eye opener.”
If anyone has a dental emergencies they can contact the Cariboo Dental Clinic’s emergency line.