Dentists ready to mobilize, administer COVID-19 vaccine in Manitoba

Manitoba dentists are being called on to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine by giving shots to people across the province.

“Dentists are experts in infection control and provision of injections. [We] have been providing injections for eons and we really understand the health of Manitobans and take it very seriously,” said Dr. Marc Mollot, president of the Manitoba Dental Association.

His members are ready to be trained over the next week, he said.

“I’m quite certain that our community will respond favourably. We’ll mobilize to respond to that call.”

An order issued by the provincial government last week under the Regulated Health Professions Act expanded the list of who will be allowed to give the vaccine (under certain conditions) to also include:

  • Pharmacists.
  • Veterinarians.
  • Veterinary technologists.
  • Midwives.
  • Physiotherapists.
  • Lab technologists.
  • Respiratory therapists.
  • Occupational therapists.

It also includes students training to become doctors, physician assistants, nurses, paramedics and dentists.

Retired health-care professionals (including those no longer registered with their professional college) are on the list as well.

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were given to about 300 front-line health-care workers on Wednesday in Winnipeg. The shots will be administered through Friday this week, with the goal of inoculating 900 people with the initial dose.

The vaccine requires two doses; the second will be administered at the RBC Convention Centre site in three weeks, health officials have said.

Dr. Marc Mollot wants to assure people that visiting the dentist is safe, and he is urging people to make appointments for preventative care. (CBC)

As the COVID-19 pandemic rolls through its ninth month in Manitoba, dentists are seeing the impact it has had on people’s oral health, said Mollot, who is a practising dentist.

Appointments were cancelled during the spring lockdown, which led to a backlog when dentists were allowed to reopen again at the end of April. Now, it also seem people are postponing regular maintenance visits because they view them as less urgent care, Mollot said.

The domino effect is that many people are long overdue for a visit, leading to worsening cavities and gum disease.

Dentists are also seeing the effect of COVID-related strain on patients, with an increase in cracked and broken teeth from grinding of teeth and clenching of jaws, Mollot said.

“Speaking with colleagues, it’s become highly visible during the COVID-19 times and seems to be related to stress,” he said.

“So it’s really critical that people continue to access preventative maintenance care from the dentists.”

Mollot is particularly concerned about the elderly and those in long-term care homes, whose access to basic dental care needs has been severely reduced.

“They are suffering … and this will have long-term oral health effects,” he said.

Mollot understands that some who have access are putting off visiting a dentist because they feel vulnerable — uneasy about how close they need to be to the dentist and hygienist — but he said his profession is extremely safe.

“Dentists, early on in this pandemic, instituted a significant amount of measures to protect the public, their teams and themselves. Those measures have been very successful,” he said. 

“In fact, dental offices have been an extremely safe place for Manitobans. We know a lot more now about the virus and we have learned to manage our dental offices very effectively.”