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Lynn dentists temporarily close practices to curb COVID-19 exposure

By Gayla Cawley | March 18, 2020

LYNN — Oral health care will not be available for many throughout the state as dentists are closing down their practices temporarily to comply with a “strong” recommendation from the Massachusetts Dental Society.  

Only patients requiring emergency dental care will be seen for the next three weeks, guidance that is aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus. 

Several Lynn dentists said Monday they have opted to heed the nonprofit’s recommendation to close their offices to patients seeking elective and non-urgent care until April 6, which had just been communicated to them that morning.

“I think we’re doing what we can to protect our patients and see how this goes moving forward,” said Dr. Jay Epstein, who owns Jay M. Epstein D.M.D., a practice on Western Avenue. “If that’s what the governor (and) Mass Dental Society thinks is best for our patients, we’re on board.” 

Epstein said the practice would be open to patients in need of emergency care, but he’s decided that anything that’s elective isn’t worth the risk. 

For the next three weeks, Epstein said the office will be operating with a skeleton crew and hours will be cut back. He anticipates the practice, which opened in the city in 1984 and employs 15-18 people, will struggle from the cutbacks, as other small businesses that are closing will. 

“I think everyone is concerned about the financial impact, but it’s not our primary interest,” said Epstein. “This is about the general well-being of everyone around us and patients. I think this is a first for mandatory closure of dental offices. I think this is unprecedented for everything in the country — restaurants and schools are closing. This is all uncharted waters.” 

He said regular precautions are being taken, such as using masks and sterilizing everything in the office, but additional steps have included eliminating magazines in the waiting rooms and distancing patients to minimize exposure. 

Dr. Don Feldman, who owns Feldman Orthodontics on Nahant Street, said he was going to follow through with the recommendation and close for non-emergencies. Patients have already been canceling appointments, and have opted not to reschedule for the time being, he said. 

“It’s just to give everybody some peace of mind,” said Feldman about the closure. “It’s not a business decision.” 

A receptionist at Prosthetic Associates, located on Lewis Street, said doctors were closing down the practice on Tuesday and were unavailable for comment. 

In a post on its website Monday, Mass Dental Society said “this is not guidance we are issuing lightly.” 

“It is being done out of an abundance of caution during these turbulent times,” the post reads. “As health care professionals, we all have a role to play in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and flattening the curve in order to follow sound scientific, public health advice, help limit infections, and slow the spread of the virus.” 

The recommendation from Mass Dental Society came a day after Gov. Charlie Baker announced he was closing all Massachusetts schools for the next three weeks and banning gatherings of more than 25 people. 

The ban effectively closes the majority of public establishments and applies to churches, gyms, theaters and workplaces. Grocery stores and pharmacies won’t be impacted. 

The number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts increased to 218 on Tuesday, up from the 197 that were reported on Monday, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. 

Declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the outbreak, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, has spread across the globe. As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there have been 4,226 cases and 75 deaths in the United States.