The Dental College of Georgia (DCG) is looking to help alleviate stress placed on hospital emergency departments with dental emergencies by setting up a free Virtual Dental Helpline, which will go live Monday, April 6.
Both patients of record and those in the community will be eligible to call 706-721-9645 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for advice and referral information for dental emergencies.
In a letter sent out to the Augusta Dental Society, Eastern District Dental Society and the Georgia Dental Association, Kim L. Capehart, DDS, Chair of the DCG Virtual Dental Helpline Task Force, said DCG faculty are dedicated to doing their part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
He also said currently, people are going to the emergency department or are getting screened in the DCG’s emergency clinic, but there’s nowhere to go for those who do not have a regular dentist. They’re hoping this program will act as a buffer as well as provide some advice.
The letter also said that with their efforts, they are hoping to conserve N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies that are in high demand.
“The Dental College of Georgia wants to collaborate with you, our community dentists,” Capehart said in the letter. “If, for some reason, you are unable to provide your patients with care and/or patients do not contact you initially, the DCG has developed a new Virtual Dental Helpline. If one of your patients calls our helpline and is not recommended to be referred to the ED, we will request that the patient contact you, their dental home, for definitive treatment when it is recommended and safe to do so.
“Our aim is to help mitigate the number of visits to the ED for dental emergencies that are not life-threatening emergencies. This initiative will assist in preserving precious PPE for more life-threatening emergencies.”
Shortly after students were sent home, Dr. Jeffrey James, a physician and oral and maxillofacial surgeon with the DCG, asked if there was any way the DCG could help keep patients with dental concerns out of the emergency department. The ensuing discussion suggested that sharing readily available advice would help patients preserve their own health by staying home and away from overloaded EDs.
“Dr. James saw the virtual helpline as a way to help mitigate the number of people that technically have an emergency but for dentistry, therefore one that was not life threatening,” Capehart said.
Capehart said they won’t know immediately the impact the helpline will have but added that they are getting a decent amount of calls from people who do not have a regular dentist and are having dental issues.
“I have a great team to help with (the helpline),” he said. “And we are trying to help our local dentists in the community. We’re not charging people; we’re just trying to help aid people in the community. If patients have a dental home, we’re going to recommend that they go back to their dentist. We’re going to do our best to help the hospitals and patients that don’t have anywhere to really go.”