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Dentists work to help their own patients while also helping doctors on the front lines of COVID-19

Many dentists offices are closed across the state because guidelines from the Dept. of Health limit their ability to see patients.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Dentists are banding together across our region to help doctors on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. 

But the donation drive comes at a time when dentists are also trying to keep up with the demands of their own patients as many dental offices are shutdown across the state. 

Alfano Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and the Pennsylvania Center for Periodontology are collecting donations this Monday for emergency medical services and hospitals in Cumberland County. They are asking dentists, community members, and businesses to donate medical supplies like N95 masks, surgical gloves, gowns, sanitizer, saline bags, and toilet paper. 

The donations can be dropped off Monday, March 30 from 10 a.m. to noon at 2250 Millennium Way, Enola.

“Dentists offices aren’t thinking of their bottom line right now. Their bottom line is not measured in dollars. It’s measured in people,” said Dr. Michael Verber, CEO and President of Verber Dental Group, whose office is helping to organize the donation drive.

Verber said that although dental offices were deemed life-sustaining businesses by the state, most offices are closed right now because under state guidelines doctors are only seeing patients who are facing emergencies.

Dentists are further restricted because emergency procedures, per the guidelines, must also be done in specialized negative pressure surgical suites to help stop the spread of COVID-19, Verber said.

But, he admits, “there were very few dental facilities in the state that had that ability."

“Our contractor is rapidly installing some ventilations, some HVAC systems that allow us to create a negative pressure surgical suite,” Verber said. "We’re getting a flood of calls from patients with very severe dental conditions.”

RELATED: State Sen. Scott Martin calls for Wolf Administration to ease COVID-19 mitigation restrictions on emergency dentistry

Verber said the goal of many dentists now is to keep their patients out of emergency rooms.

Dr. David Ross of David Race Orthodontics in Harrisburg also spoke to FOX43. He said his office also does not have a negative pressure surgical suite. Dr. Ross is therefore turning online, working to speak to his patients through text message, Zoom, and other virtual techniques. 

He is also asking them to send him videos and photos, Ross said.

“We have a lot of different technology at our disposal that’s allowing us to communicate with our patients constantly,” said Ross. "We are actually in the process of working out all the kinks for going completely virtual for some appointments.”

Ross said his goal is to move his patients' treatment forward. While taking care of his patients is his biggest concern, Ross said, he is also working to take care of his employees' needs as well.

“It’s really a struggle and a balancing act to make decisions that have to make sure that (employees) are taken care of, the patients are taken care of, but also that we have a business and a practice for everybody to come back to,” said Ross.