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Prioritizing Dental in a Pandemic


When the state of Michigan executive order required many businesses to shut down this past spring, Dr. Paul Crowley and his staff at Great Lakes Bay Health Centers (GLBHC) reimagined how they could continue to provide critical dental care.

“Our patient population – a lot of them are in pain,” said Dr. Crowley, GLBHC dental director. “Many patients have really deep cavities that may get to the nerve if they wait to get them fixed. We still had treatment we had to complete to stop their pain or prevent possible pain, with or without COVID-19 around.

“When patients have pain and don’t know where to go, their first stop can be at the hospital emergency room. We wanted to help keep hospitals free of as many dental patients as possible so they could treat those people needing emergency hospital care.”

GLBHC provides a vast array of services in the Great Lakes Bay area. Because the medical and dental teams are able to assist one another, paired with the large size of the dental team and at-risk patient population, GLBHC was able to remain open for emergency dental care.

Still – they had to make some changes.

One of their six dental clinics closed, and most dental hygienists were laid off – those kept on were relocated to the pharmacy to provide assistance. All 15 dentists were kept on staff, with one scheduled for emergency care each day with the help of two assistants. Dentists not on the day’s schedule were redirected to various GLBHC COVID-19 screening sites, but were available to assist in a dental emergency as needed.

Cosmetic procedures were limited, but GLBHC was able to provide other care like dentures, crowns, fillings and extractions to ensure patients would not have to live in pain during the stay home orders.

Patients were encouraged to call ahead of time but GLBHC never turned anyone away who showed up in need of emergency dental care. All patients were screened and processed in such a way that reduced waiting room traffic.

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