Health NSW stats show the Hunter New England region had over 2,900 potentially preventable dental hospitalisations last year, but now dental hygiene has never been more important.
As elective or non-urgent treatments are banned due to the Covid-19 pandemic, dentists across the region have united to make sure people can still get the urgent care they need.
An emergency register has been established by the Australian Dental Association (ADA) NSW to ensure patients can access this care.
Clinics from Tamworth, Gunnedah, Armidale and Quirindi are taking part.
One of these is dentist Dr Paul Hagley from Darling Dental.
He said despite a skeleton staff, they saw the need to remain open at a time where many clinics were forced to close their doors. Helping out an already burdened hospital staff was also important.
"The staff will ask a series of Covid-19 screening questions, and we go from there," he explained.
The staff will ask a series of Covid-19 screening questions, and we go from there.Paul Hagley
Any ailments that cause physical pain - like orthodontic wires sticking into the mouth, painful and debilitating ulcers, a broken tooth causing cuts, or an incredibly painful tooth are all things they are allowed to handle.
"We are at a high risk because dentistry causes a fine mist of water and saliva in the air, so it doesn't matter how much you sanitise, wear gloves and masks or scrub surfaces, it will linger for hours."
Those with a pensioner or health care card can call up the dental clinic and receive a voucher to attend an open dentist.
For Min Kim, principal dentist and owner of Quirindi Dental Care, they decided to stay open after a discussion with the staff there.
He wanted to make sure that those needing urgent help were taken care of.
"We decided to keep our business open so we are available for the public to help them out rather than them going to the hospital," Dr Kim said.
We decided to keep our business open so we are available for the public to help them out rather than them going to the hospital.Dr Min Kim
"Also there is a high risk for patients visiting hospitals with exposure to Covid-19, so the best decision for us is to maintain and stay open."
Their surgery may only see one or two patients a day, and even none on occasion, so they make sure patients can be seen in the mornings before 3pm.
"All our staff are here in the office, passing the time to be sure we are here for whoever needs us."
"This is an incredibly challenging time for healthcare professionals, including dentists ... I thank my colleagues for stepping up to register," ADA NSW President Dr Kathleen Matthews said.
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