A Vancouver Island dentist is joining the chorus of dental professionals calling to be included in Phase 2 of B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Last weekend, the BC Dental Association wrote to Premier John Horgan, urging the province to moved to Phase 2 for these reasons:

  • Dental care is an essential service.
  • Dental professionals are the only health care providers who provide aerosol-generating dental procedures to patients who cannot wear a mask during treatment.
  • Dental treatment is provided predominantly outside a hospital setting.

Nanaimo’s Dr.  Rob Wolanski says getting vaccinated earlier would allow dentists immediate and uninterrupted access to their most vulnerable patients.

“In order to keep those people as safe as we can, adding this layer to what dental offices are doing would be very, very wise in our opinion and it would only reflect what is being done pretty much in the rest of the world,” he said.

Wolanski gave an example of an 80-year-old patient who has had a sore throat off and on for two weeks and was also dealing with a painful tooth infection.

“The second someone has symptoms, we will not see them for at least two weeks,” Wolanski said. “We put him on some antibiotics but one of the challenges we have is sometimes antibiotics don’t work for some people. During that two-and-a-half month period (when dental offices were closed early in the pandemic) it was a real learning curve for all dentists because we had to medicate people for sometimes two months. That’s not a healthy thing for them but we had no choice.”

Wolanski pointed out that dental treatment can’t be done remotely, and patients and dental professionals are unable to physically distance.  

“The patients can’t wear a mask, they have an open airway,” Wolanski said.

He added that dental professionals are experts at keeping a super clean work environment and “pretty much eliminating” the risk of cross contamination and infections.

“If we didn’t do things right in the dental office, the end of your career you would all have hepatitis, tuberculosis, maybe HIV, you would have all these viruses.”

He said dentists want all their staff to be included in Phase 2 including hygienists, dental assistants and receptionists “who came back to care for the patients of BC and still do so.”  

“They courageously  did so when we did not know the risks and there was a great amount of fear present. Dentists worked hard to make our offices safe for our employees and we hope we can improve on the safety factor for their welfare,” Wolanski added.

“Most of the employees are female and many are pregnant and still working in challenging conditions for the benefit of BC citizens.”