Shortage of liquid oxygen affecting visits to the dentist

Because of the high demand for liquid oxygen at hospitals, it's making it tough for others, even at the dentist's office.

At Dellagio Dentist, Dr. Kaianne Conibear has had to cut back on liquid oxygen use in her office, because of the shortage prompted by a rise in COVID-19 patients.

"I was a little surprised and the first time that happened was a little anxious, because we had some children scheduled, and it’s harder to work on kids without it."  

She says liquid oxygen is needed for nitrous oxide, used to calm patients during procedures. Some have gone without it. 

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"Other patients have opted for different sedation options or some of them just want to wait."

The dentist's chair isn’t the only place affected by the liquid oxygen shortage. Even rocket launches may be delayed.

"Liquid oxygen is used as an oxidizer for the various rocket fuels that are used for launches. It’s used for making steel, it’s used for welding and metal fabricating. It’s used in glass manufacturing," explains Richard Craig of the Compressed Gas Association.

He says his members have cut back on other users, making hospitals a priority.

"There’s a significant increase in demand for medical oxygen. It’s running through three to five times the normal use rate, depending upon the facilities."

According to a survey conducted by the Florida Hospital Association this week, hospitals operating a third of the state’s acute-care beds report having 48 hours or less of oxygen on hand. 

Craig says, "If they’re located near a supply plant, 48 hours is plenty of time to get that product to their facility." 

However, having a shortage of truck drivers nationwide is also a challenge, especially when they need to be specially trained.

Dr. Conibear understands the urgency for COVID patients in need.

"It’s like everything else with COVID, you roll with it and do what you have to do."  

Experts ask medical patients using liquid oxygen at home not to stock up too much, so there's enough for everyone.

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