NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Governor Lee's new executive order to delay dental non-emergency services until next week has drawn mixed and strong feelings from dentists and hygienists across Tennessee.
Offices were supposed to fully open Thursday under the original order, but late Wednesday afternoon, Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 31 that would keep dental offices closed for services like cleanings until May 6.
The order said in light of recent recommendations for safe dental practice by the American Dental Association (ADA) that aligned with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), state dental groups such as the Tennessee Dental Association are still working to develop appropriate guidelines.
However, the Tennessee Dental Association said it has been advocating for members to return to work.
In a statement, TDA said, "Executive Order No. 31 (“EO-31”) was issued late yesterday afternoon and dealt an unexpected blow to TDA members. Unfortunately, EO-31 and subsequent dialogue have created a misimpression with respect to the position and advocacy of the TDA.
The TDA did not advocate for or agree with a last minute modification to the existing restrictions on a return to dental practice. The TDA advocated aggressively for dentists to return to work on April 30 and made it clear that dentists had made preparations with staff and patients for a safe return to practice."
"We can't keep false starting like this. I think the predictably and some real clear guidance on what we need to do would be much appreciated,"dentist Dr. Timothy Nabors told NewsChannel 5.
Nabors argued his team has been ready to open even though they helped donate personal protective equipment to hospitals at the start of the pandemic. While dentistry has somewhat been singled out because of the aerosol component, Nabors stressed most dentists are prepared to keep everyone protected.
"I'm here ready to go. I've got PPE's I've got patients who are waiting to see me and need to see me," Nabors said. "To me it seemed like a large extension perhaps for a small number of practices that might not ready and frankly, I don't think they would open anyway. I don't think we needed a mandate to tell us that because they would be practicing outside the guideline."
While many disagree with the governor's decision, there are many others who find it to be appropriate.
Cindy Godfrey, the Tennessee Dental Hygienists' Association president, had no comment the day after the executive order but a letter set to the governor's office last week lists concerns about reopening the economy.
The letter mentioned the dental profession being one of the highest risk jobs and how obtaining PPE's is nearly impossible.
Dr. Nicholas Dennery said while he wants to treat all of his patients, he understands the importance of the order and has mixed feelings.
"What they need me to do as a health care provider, that's what I'm going to do. It can be frustrating to go back and forth on things but that's not what we're talking about right now. It's taking care of the patients the best way we can," Dennery said.