NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Thousands of dentists and hygienists in the state and across the country are petitioning to help in the fight against COVID-19.
The efforts come after mandates have been put in place in several states, effectively keeping dentists, hygienists and other licensed dental professionals at home unless there’s an emergency procedure.
On Monday, executive order No. 18 was signed by Governor Bill Lee banning dental procedures and surgeries that aren’t emergencies until April 13.
A petition on change.org titled, “Consider using licensed dental professionals to support hospital physicians and nurses!” has just over 9,000 signatures as of Monday night and is a call to the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services.
The petition states, “In this dire time, when our hospital workers are possibly overworked, why not consider deploying licensed dental professionals to our hospital to help with screenings and basic tasks within their skill sets and reserving the skills of our doctors and nurses for more important and specialized care.”
Lisa Kistner, a dental hygienist in Hendersonville, has been home since last week after both the state and national dental associations recommended offices suspend procedures.
Kistner told News 2 she had filed for unemployment and also signed the petition.
“We want to help, we want to fight it [COVID19] – help in any capacity that we can, so we can get back to work and do what we do,” said Kistner, whose daughter is an emergency room nurse.
Nashville-based hygienist Veronica Hill has also been at home since last week. She signed the petition too saying, “I think that we would be a great profession to step in and help with overflow and testing, triage, taking blood pressure …anything like that.”
The petition mentions that dentists and hygienists work with physicians to provide complete patient care. It further states that dentists often take the same prerequisites as physicians and that most hygienists have degrees in applied sciences.
“We’re not working so we’re ready to help,” said Hill
The executive order says that “emergency procedures for patients with acute dental or oral needs may still be performed, including treatment for pain, swelling, trauma, or an abscess.” The order has similar exceptions for emergency surgeries.
Area dental offices are urging patients to call if they have a dental emergencies, instead of going to the hospital.
News 2 reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services to inquire as to whether the agency will consider deploying dental professionals to hospitals, and have yet to hear back.
Governor Lee’s executive order also asks medical providers to donate their remaining medical supplies to the state, find out more at this link.