WEST WARWICK — To assist in reducing emergency room visits unrelated to COVID-19 during the global pandemic, Thundermist Health Center has announced it will keep its doors open for patients with urgent dental needs. 

“We thought it was our responsibility to be able to be here as much as possible,” Thundermist Chief Dental Officer Eric Prosseda said Friday. 

In its mission to slow the spread of COVID-19, the state Department of Health announced recently that dental offices were to suspend all services except those deemed emergencies. 

“So every dental practice in the state of Rhode Island is now closed,” said Amanda Barney, Thundermist’s associate vice president of communications and development. “Not every private practice has the capacity to respond to emergency needs during this crisis, but here at Thundermist we do.”

Instead of leaving patients to rely on hospitals or urgent care centers for treatment of critical dental issues like bleeding, swelling or pain, Prosseda said it was important to Thundermist to offer a place where they can safely go. 

Often in those kinds of urgent oral care situations, Prosseda added, patients think first of going to emergency rooms. But even under normal circumstances, he said, dental offices are typically better equipped than are emergency rooms to treat and diagnose dental pain. 

“Nowadays it’s even more important, since they’re probably not going to get what they need there to begin with, and it’s just going to overwhelm emergency room departments even more,” he said.

Thundermist President Jeanne LaChance also spoke to the importance of avoiding crowded emergency rooms, adding that it’s also crucial that patients receive dental care when it’s needed. 

“Untreated dental issues can turn into major infections,” LaChance said. “It is important right now to maintain your health and stay out of the emergency room.”

Conservation of Thundermist’s personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks, began a while ago, Prosseda added. And assuming that supply doesn’t run out, he said, the plan is “to be here as long as we need to be here.”

“I know that there’s a lot of talk about shortages of PPE,” Barney added. “Our dentists who are providing these services have all the PPE that they need for today and the immediate future.” 

Thundermist won’t accept walk-in appointments, and patients seeking emergency dental services must not be exhibiting any signs of illness, including fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms.

Prosseda asks that patients call ahead of time since a lot of things can actually be done over the phone. 

“So they won’t need to come in, necessarily,” he added. “We may be able to help them without having them leave their homes.”

Thundermist offers oral health care for both children and adults from its locations in West Warwick, Woonsocket and Wakefield, accepting a range of dental insurances and offering sliding scale fees for those who qualify.

“We’re here to see and treat patients who need it, whether they can afford to pay or not,” Prosseda said. “And right now, there are probably a lot of people out there who are out of work, don’t have jobs, might not have insurance and don’t know where to go — our mission is to be there for those people.”


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