McLean County Dentists Ready To Provide COVID-19 Vaccines

Alonzo Osche

McLean County dentists are taking a hands-on approach to getting their patients back in the chair, with many learning how to deliver the COVID vaccine themselves.

Dental practices have seen about a 20{20335960d828ac45ef5fde98a5aa7f4c1fb21de0715bafc997f46433d5bf3454} decrease in volume due to COVID-19. Dr. Kirk Noraian with the McLean County Dental Society said he has seen a higher degree of decay, gum disease and teeth loss due to avoidance.

“By helping the community to achieve herd immunity, I think we are going to be able to get people more excited about getting back to the dentist for their care and being able to understand that their mouth isn’t disconnected from the rest of their body,” said Noraian. “Oral health is synonymous with stomach health. We are really trying to advocate that everyone’s oral health is a key part to their overall health.”

The McLean County Dental Society (MCDS) gave 33 members special training developed by the Illinois State Dental Society (ISDS) so they could see patients resume care and maintain their oral health.

ISDS lobbied for weeks for the ability to step up and help end the pandemic by providing vaccine doses themselves. ISDS developed the “Just In Time COVID-19 Immunization Training,” which the McLean County dentists completed in a virtual meeting.

Participating dentists are required to go through special training, have a current certificate in CPR, and meet local record-keeping and reporting requirements in their jurisdiction once they complete the vaccine protocols themselves. Dentists already have their CPR certification to maintain their dental licenses.

Noraian said the next step is additional training that allows practices to administer vaccines in-office.

Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require special temperature controls, and that limits dentists administering the vaccine in their offices.

But that hasn’t stopped them. Non-members and members of the dental society are currently volunteering in local settings. 

“Not all offices may be able to offer that. We’re trying to offer the manpower to be able to deliver herd immunity for the community,” said Noraian. “At this point our dentists would just need to get familiar with the protocols for that specific facility, and we are able to help them to increase capacity, based on our membership actively volunteering for those sites.” 

Dentists have implemented recommendations for added safety in dental offices. Noraian said dentists’ offices have always been equipped for infectious outbreaks. 

“Dentists have focused on doing everything we can to control the spread of aerosols in our offices to help control the virus,” he said.. “We’ve implemented different types of filtration and practices. But what you have to understand is the dental office has been a pretty safe environment to receive treatment for a long time.” 

Noraian said he was in school during the AIDS crisis, and back then standards were followed and then later heightened, especially after understanding COVID-19. 

Not only are McLean County dentists trying to achieve herd immunity for dental health to get back on track, but they wanted to show appreciation to the McLean County Health Department for supporting vaccinations for dentists and their teams as frontline health care providers.

“Pulling together has been incredibly important during this pandemic. MCDS wishes to thank MCHD Emergency Services Coordinator David Hopper, Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight, and Support Specialist Jeffrey Paternoster for helping dental front-line workers get vaccinated. Also, when PPE was in short supply, MCDS wishes to thank Cathy Beck of our local FEMA affiliate for helping get needed scarce supplies to get dental offices reopened,” said Noraian.

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