Dentists, eye doctors postpone appointments due to COVID-19

Dentists in Illinois have been recommended to do only emergency procedures until March 31, while ophthalmologists and optometrists are delaying some appointments and taking precautions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Illinois State Dental Society on Monday issued the recommendation to postpone elective dental treatment and procedures starting Tuesday, saying dentists and staff members are one of the highest-risk groups for contracting the virus.

Meanwhile, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Illinois Optometric Association and the Illinois Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons hadn't issued specific guidelines as of Monday, other than to follow CDC recommendations regarding COVID-19. But some physicians said they are postponing some elective procedures.

At High Point Dentistry in Elgin, Palatine and Schaumburg, dental cleanings, implants, veneers, sealants, crowns and braces are being postponed, said regional manager Fel Aguinaga. “We are only seeing patients in the office that are in pain, have swelling, trouble closing (their mouths), abscess and/or draining,” she said.

People should call if they have questions and can also videochat with dentists at High Point Dentistry, she said.

“People can end up in the hospital for dental infections. The last thing you want is people with tooth abscesses to end up in the emergency rooms, which are already overworked,” Aguinaga said.

High Point Dentistry already had been asking patients who had traveled recently or were not feeling well to reschedule appointments, and had waived cancellation fees, Aguinaga said.

Dr. Jon Gieser, president of Wheaton Eye Clinic, said the clinic is delaying routine office visits, as well as elective eye surgeries, primarily for cataracts. However, retina surgeries are taking place, he said.

“We don't want to do anything that might put patients at risk and we don't want to overburden the health care system any more than it already is,” Gieser said.

Telemedicine is difficult to do with ophthalmology, Gieser said. Patients of Wheaton Eye Clinic — with locations in Wheaton, Naperville, St. Charles, Hinsdale and Plainfield — can call to determine if they are having an emergency, he said.

The clinic already had been asking visitors to wait in their cars to reduce people in waiting rooms and asking patients with symptoms of illness such as fever and cough not to come to the office, Gieser said.

Optician Harsh Parekh of Lens and Specs in Schaumburg said the office is scheduling optometry appointments 45 minutes apart to reduce contact among people. There have been no cancellations, but walk-ins have virtually stopped, he said.

The office is taking precautions by disinfecting surfaces, equipment and eye frames, and providing hand sanitizer for patients, he said.

One more thing has changed, Parekh said — to limit physical contact, he's using the traditional Indian “namaste” greeting, which requires no touching.

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