Central Coast Dental offices closed voluntarily but are still servicing patients

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Local news coverage misrepresented the status of dental offices and their ability to operate during the current shelter-at-home order, according to a statement sent out by the Central Coast Dental Society on April 23.

The society is an affiliate of the California Dental Association and the American Dental Association that serves San Luis Obispo County as well as the cities of Santa Maria and Guadalupe in Santa Barbara County.

CLOSED DOORS, REMOTE HELP Lynn Sayre-Carstairs of Coast Periodontics and Laser Surgery closed her office to the public on March 16, but continues to serve patients via telemedicine. - PHOTO COURTESY OF COAST PERIODONTICS AND LASER SURGERY
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF COAST PERIODONTICS AND LASER SURGERY
  • CLOSED DOORS, REMOTE HELP Lynn Sayre-Carstairs of Coast Periodontics and Laser Surgery closed her office to the public on March 16, but continues to serve patients via telemedicine.
Organization trustee Lynn Sayre-Carstairs is a periodontist at Coast Periodontics and Laser Surgery in San Luis Obispo. She said local media inaccurately reported that dental offices were forced to shut their doors due to the current pandemic and local restrictions.



“Dental offices were not mandated by the state of California or anyone else to close their doors,” Sayre-Carstairs said.

The move to close dental offices was voluntary and recommended by both the California Dental Association and the American Dental Association.

A March 16 statement from the American Dental Association recommended dentists suspend all in-person dental care with the exception of emergency treatment, until further notice. By suspending non-emergency care, dentists could “care for emergency patients and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency,” the statement said.

Sayre-Carstairs said Central Coast Dental Society members decided to close physical offices beginning March 16, for the time being, due to a lack of personal protective equipment. The Dental Society believed, she said, that the equipment that was available should go to the first responders.

“We were also concerned that in dentistry we’re very close to the patient and there was some very strong evidence that the virus was extremely contagious. So in order to protect ourselves, our patients, and our staff, we voluntarily closed until such a time as there was more clarity to not put anyone at risk,” she said.

However, Sayre-Carstairs said she and many other dentists in the region are still providing services to patients via telemedicine.

“I have had some calls with patients that have a tooth infection or a gum infection and I’m able to prescribe antibiotics over the phone,” she said.

With at-home access to her dental records, Sayre-Carstairs has the ability to look at a patient’s health history, update the record, and prescribe medication if necessary.

“A gum infection doesn’t necessarily need antibiotics, I can talk about different ways that they can clean things, different oral mouth rinses over the counter, or sometimes I might need to have a prescription mouthwash to be able to calm everything down,” she said.



Being able to talk with patients over the phone, identifying their needs, and assisting them eliminates the need to go to the emergency room if it isn’t necessary, Sayre-Carstairs said, leaving it available for potential COVID-19 related emergencies.

At this time, Sayre-Carstairs said she’s not charging patients that call her with questions so she encourages her patients to reach out during this time.

Moving forward, as the state and SLO County begins drafting guidelines for reopening, Sayre-Carstairs said she believes the dentistry field is still going to have social distancing and possibly a new standard number of patients who can be seen at a time.

“We will have very precise guidelines both from [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and our professional organizations as to how we keep our patients safe,” she said.

Amid current and future changes, Sayre-Carstairs said there are some positive outcomes.

“If we even want to talk about carbon footprint. My not driving to the office takes one car off the road and out of the parking lot, and I’m still working and using my professional skills,” she said. ∆

—Karen Garcia

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