Dentists urged to defer non-urgent treatments for vulnerable patients

Dentists urged to defer non-urgent treatments for vulnerable patients

As practically every sector of the economy seeks out ways to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) has put out recommendations that are expected to chip into practitioners' bottom lines.

The ADA recommends all non-urgent dental treatments be deferred for patients over the age of 70, or those with chronic disease or are immunocompromised.

The association also suggests dentists advise patients attend alone or only bring minimal additional companions.

"Consider longer appointments to allow enough time between treatments to enable additional infection control measures including environmental cleaning," the ADA says.

"Consider staggering patient appointments to minimise patient contact in the waiting room, or if there is a car park on site, ask patients to wait in their cars and call the practice upon arrival."

Click here for the full list of guidelines.

Pacific Smiles Group (ASX: PSQ) expects the reduction will negatively impact on its patient fee income in the coming months, although year-to-date patient fee growth was up 7.9 per cent as of 22 March.

This compares to a growth rate of 15 per cent as at 15 February.

The company was previously forecasting a 15 per cent uplift in its underlying EBITDA result for FY20, but the Covid-19 impact has thrown a spanner in the works, leading Pacific to withdraw its guidance.

"New guidance will be issued when there is an adequate level of visibility into the impact of Covid-19," the group said, noting a cash position of $18.7 million and net debt of approximately $11.3 million.

The PSQ share price remained unchanged at the time of writing, however shares have lost more than half their value since 20 February.

1300 Smiles (ASX: ONT) has not yet responded to the ADA's announcement but its shares were down 2.69 per cent this morning and have lost around a quarter of their value over the past month.

On 10 March, 1300 Smiles advised it had not been affected by any shortage of face masks, citing an "ample supply" of health and safety supplies with all of its facilities operating normally.

Another ASX-listed dental company Smiles Inclusive (ASX: SIL), which has been experiencing financial strife for the past 18 months and has been raising capital to stay afloat, is also yet to provide an update following the ADA's recommendations.

Smiles shares have been suspended from quotation since early this month, and yesterday the company announced two new appointments: Michelle Aquilina (formerly CEO of Primary Dental) as new deputy chief executive officer; and Mark O'Brien as general manager of operations.

Updated at 12:05pm AEDT on 24 March.

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