A handful of dental surgeries in Whanganui are remaining available to the public during the Covid-19 lockdown, although stringent procedures have been put in place to minimise the risks for both patients and surgeons.
Head of Victoria Dental and Whanganui district councillor, Hadleigh Reid, said a major issue facing dentists everywhere was the aerosols that are caused by certain dental procedures.
These are airborne particles that could be derived from blood, saliva, tooth debris and dental plaque.
"This spray occurs when you use hand pieces, primarily high-speed ones like an ultrasonic scaler, " Reid said.
"There is an inherent risk in our profession that things can be spread, so it's really important that our staff are on top of things."
"If we need to do a procedure that will create aerosols, we are required to wear long-sleeve gowns and M95 face masks at all times.
Director of The Dentists on Wicksteed St, Adam Durning, said an online consultation would be required before any surgery was agreed upon.
"If you feel like you need to have a talk to a dentist then we advise the patient that there is a fee, just like a regular consultation," Durning said.
"We'll try our best to make a diagnosis, through the use of photography and videos."
Durning said a two-page checklist would need to be filled out by the patient, and any other health issues such as a cough or sore throat would be identified before the patient progressed to surgery.
"Once the patient has answered these questions we set up the surgery to the right level to deal with any threat," Durning said.
"We do have the means to treat someone infected with the Covid-19 virus, and even though that situation is unlikely, we have prepared for it."
Durning added that while their front doors were locked, the front office would still be manned, and patients are welcome to call and talk to one of the operators. All patients accepted for surgery would have to undergo procedures such as hand sanitisation and the removal of footwear as soon as they entered the dental facility.
"The district health board has been in contact with us, because they don't want a kid with a loose tooth to turn up at the doctors and further increase the risk of infection.
"We want to be able to free up doctors and surgeons in other areas."