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COVID-19 Dental Office Closures Affect Atlanta Patients and Dentists

As a lawyer in Atlanta who handles dental malpractice on a regular basis, I can gauge by the number of potential new clients the amount of dental procedures that take place in Atlanta. Since we only handle new cases that involve injuries caused by a dental procedure, and the number of dental procedures performed in Atlanta was down to almost zero in April and May of 2020, we have seen the number of dental malpractice calls go down by almost 75% in April and 90% in May. Although the numbers are not in yet for June, as of this writing, I imagine the calls related to new dental malpractice claims are down by about 90%.

While dentist offices tend to be stable businesses that do not fluctuate much in the number of procedures performed, dentists have been especially hard hit by the corona virus pandemic.  For the most part, any dental procedures that are not emergencies have been put off. This includes cavities, cleanings and a whole host of other dental procedures.

Atlanta dentists stopped all non-emergent care on March 16, when the CDC and the American Dental Association issued protocols against elective care. Some dentists say they closed even earlier as protective equipment became in short supply. By mid-April, half of dentists in Atlanta had either laid off their entire staffs or instituted staggered work weeks with a skeleton staff. While there are reports of some dentists not closing in some other parts of the county, I have not heard of any here in Atlanta. As Atlanta dentists ramp back up and head back to work, it’s unclear whether patients will follow. While Georgia has given dentist offices the go-ahead to reopen, patient volumes remain half of what they were before the pandemic.

Dentists understand why coming into their offices — even with the extra protective equipment they’ve invested in — may not be an appealing proposition. Dental procedures require the dentist to be right in your face.  Now, dentists must wear an N95 mask, but still, at times must take the mask off. Clearly not an ideal situation when you are within inches of the patients mouth and nose. Dentists may feel safe and believe the risk is worth it to start doing elective procedures again, but many patients may not feel the same way and may never come back. This also applies to staff, as some fear contamination from patients and refuse to come back to work. Staffing challenges are compounded in the dental office because most jobs involve chair-side assistance or actually working with the patients and cannot be performed from home (although some administrative positions certainly can and probably will be done from home, even after the pandemic is over).

For over 25 years, Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been injured or died as a result of malpractice in the Atlanta, Georgia area. He is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright Fleming & Dodson, LLC and regularly handles cases in Atlanta as well as Alpharetta, Brookhaven, Chamblee, College Park, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, Smyrna, Peachtree City, and other cities in Georgia. He is committed to making a difference in his clients’ lives. If you or family member have been seriously injured or died as a result of negligence and would like quality legal representation or if you would just like to consult about a potential case, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.

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