Strict state guidelines restrict emergency oral surgeries and dental care

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DUBOIS, Pa. (WTAJ)– A small sign on the door lets patients know oral maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Jeff Rice’s practice in DuBois is closed.

“I’ve been here for 40 years,” Rice said. “This is the first time in 40 years this area has not been covered by an oral surgeon.”

That’s because his office meets all the state’s requirements to perform emergency procedures but one:

“The patient has to be seen in a room that is negative pressure and has HEPA filtration,” Rice said.

According to the Pennsylvania Dental Association, the majority of dental offices, dental schools and even hospitals in Pennsylvania don’t have negative pressure rooms.

Rice said this requirement could be life-threatening to his patients and patients across the state.

“You have patients immunosupressed, on chemo at the present time, if an abscessed tooth occurs and continues, it could very well be fatal,” Rice said.

Rice said he now has to refer his patients to the emergency room, which will increase the number of people heading to the ER during an already busy time.

“These hospitals are over-taxed and they will be over taxed,” Rice said. “You’ll have more patients going there for treatment that can easily be treated in an office.”

Statements released by the Pennsylvania Dental Association and Pennsylvania Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons state the Department of Health did not consult with them before setting these restrictions.

Rice is encouraging people to contact the Department of Health, the governor’s office and their state legislators to have this restriction reversed.

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