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Dental practices push for more protective equipment

Dental practices around the state reopened for non-emergency care this week. They did so without access to a critical piece of protection — highly-sought-after N95 masks.

We learned found dentists are pushing to get better protection Thursday.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services made a list of “frontline medical providers” and reserved N95 masks and other personal protective equipment for them.

Dentists did not make the list.

But, with offices opening up again, Florida’s top dentist says they need masks.

Dentists say they needed to reopen their offices.

“Dental disease doesn’t take a holiday,” said Dr. Rudy Liddell, the president of the Florida Dental Association.

And waiting only makes things worse.

“That procedure that could have been taken care of with a crown now needs a root canal,” Liddell said. “And you multiply that by tens and twenties worth of patients, and you can really cause health issues.”

Dr. Liddell told us he pleaded with the governor’s office to allow elective dentistry.

And, now, he’s pleading with the federal government to re-classify dentists, so they are able to purchase N95 masks.

Right now, FEMA controls the supply chain of all PPE.

“If we get that designation now, then, FEMA will release a certain amount of masks to the dental supply companies, which will allow us to purchase,” said.

Liddell said talks with Washington are ongoing and productive, but there’s still no timetable on when dentists will get access to those N95 masks.

Liddell said, until then, dentists can use a level three surgical mask with a face shield, which he says are also effective.

Even though dentists are allowed to see patients, Liddell says it’s up to each practice to figure out the right way to reopen.

That means determining how to keep both patients and staff safe, which Liddell believes is every dentist’s standard practice.

“When I come to work and I put in my usual personal protection equipment my PPE, I feel that I’m protecting myself as well as the patients from the spread airborne viruses,” Liddell said.

Reporter:Lauren Sweeney
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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