At least seven Yellowknife dentists have temporarily stepped away from their work after attending a convention in Vancouver linked to a number of cases of Covid-19.
Nationwide, four cases of the disease have been traced back to the Pacific Dental Conference from March 5-7 in Vancouver. The convention was attended by some 15,000 people – including dentists from Yellowknife.
Four dentists at Adam Dental, one at Somba Ké Family Dental, and one at Great Slave Family Dental are self-isolating as a precautionary measure, their clinics confirmed to Cabin Radio on Tuesday.
A fifth dentist at Adam Dental who also attended the convention is currently out of the country and trying to return. They will then need to self-isolate under guidelines designed to combat the growing coronavirus pandemic.
All are said to be in good health. There are as yet no confirmed Covid-19 cases in the NWT.
Somba Ke Family Dental said it remained open for emergencies only.
At Adam Dental, office manager Alicia Price said: “Everything is still good here. We have rescheduled appointments with the dentists that are in self-isolation and we are still taking emergencies.”
Great Slave Dental Clinic owner Dr Roger Armstrong said one of the practice’s three dentists had attended the convention and would be in self-isolation until March 22.
Attempts to reach Birchwood Dental by phone were unsuccessful.
‘Everybody is being super careful’
A recent New York Times study, using US Department of Labour statistics, suggested dentists and dental hygienists face the greatest coronavirus risk of any profession. The study reported they have more exposure to disease, and more physical proximity to people, than other jobs.
“Five of our dentists were at the convention at the beginning of March,” Adam Dental’s Price said. “On late Thursday, [health officials] said there was one case and gave everybody a heads-up of where this person was situated and at what time.
“Yesterday, it came out that there were four total cases. They’ve advised all dentists who went to the convention to self-isolate for a total of 14 days from when they left.”
Price said the affected dentists were “all really healthy” but would be receiving coronavirus tests as a precaution.
A fifth dentist, she said, “left Canada before the advisory went into effect that you shouldn’t leave the country. They’re trying to get back.” That dentist will self-isolate on their return.
“Everything is being wiped and disinfected on a regular basis. Everybody is just being super careful,” said Price.
Great Slave Family Dental posted a message online for patients, stating the clinic was carrying out more disinfection sweeps, removing all shared magazines and newspapers, and introducing an “optional wait-in-car protocol.”
“When you arrive, please call reception to let us know you are here. We will call you to let you know when we are ready for you,” the message read. “You will proceed directly to the room where your appointment will be held, rather than waiting in the waiting room.”
Armstrong said normal service was available at Great Slave Dental despite losing one of three dentists to self-isolation.
“We’re doing screening procedures prior to contact with patients, asking whether they have been outside of country and whether they are exhibiting symptoms,” he said.
“The procedures we are performing are still the same, but this is a fluid situation so that may change on a daily basis.”