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Dental Offices Are Beginning To Reopen

Bloomington Family Dental
Dr, Stacey Van Scoyoc shows a laser tool.

The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Dental Society no longer recommend limiting dental procedures to emergencies.

The early May guidance is that dentists can again perform routine procedures – that is if they follow a series of checks with lawyers, insurers and occupational directives. 

They are also asked t0 take precautions like wellness screening before patients enter the office.

Dr. Stacey Van Scoyoc, a Bloomington dentist, is a spokeswoman for the dental society. She said Thursday that her office is staying closed for the time being. But other dentist offices are opening for non-emergency procedures under the new guidance.

Her office staff called more than 1,500 patients recently to check in: “The overwhelming feeling and words that came out of peoples' mouths was they were they were looking forward to getting back," she said.  "They wanted to get back to their life. They were not afraid to come in."

The society had recommended in March that dentists perform only emergency procedures.

Meanwhile, some dentists are having trouble obtaining personal protective equipment, which may delay reopening of some offices. 

Van Scoyoc says whether supplies are available depends on the region of state  where a dentist practices. But generally PPE prices have dramatically increased and wait times are much longer than prior to COVID-19.

“The supply companies are the ones that are having a hard time obtaining the volumes of personal protective equipment that we typically order because ... obviously the medical system or first responders “ she said.

The Illinois State Dental Society has been advocating for the governor to put dentistry at a higher priority within the administration for distribution of the supplies. 

Van Scoyoc says that although there’s no longer guidance in the state that dentists should avoid routine work,  visits to the dental office probably won’t be as patients remember them.

For one, there will be no chairs in the waiting room.

"We're going to be screening you before you get in — 24 to 48 hours (before),'' she said.  "We're going to screen you the day you come in."

In the past, Van Scoyoc said patients might ask if it was ok for them to come in if they were getting over a cold. Now, she said, the answer is: "No, no, absolutely not." 

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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