Tennessee dentists need some help restocking protective gear after they were asked to give it up to the National Guard. Dentists are now reopening their offices but running into the same shortages of masks, gloves and gowns seen nationwide.
“I think we thought — maybe erroneously — that there would be supplies that would come in, and it would be able to be redistributed in a pretty rapid fashion,” says Phil Wenk, CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee, the largest dental insurance plan in the state.
“That was something that was misunderstand not just by Tennessee, but everywhere.”
The shortage is so widespread that Delta Dental was trying to help dentists by distributing protective gear, but gave up. Instead, the organization has committed $3.3 million to give a $1,000 allowance for protective gear to dentists. Wenk says it’s also a way to use some of the surplus premiums that have built up, as no one has been getting regular cleanings and fillings.
The American Dental Association recommends both N-95 respirators and face shields for dental work, which has often been done with just a surgical mask.
Gov. Bill Lee’s order limiting Tennessee dentists to performing only emergency procedures expired May 6, though dentists had been pushing to get back to work even sooner.