KINGSTON -- Dentists in eastern Ontario and across the province are calling on the Ontario government to include them in the next round of COVID-19 vaccines.

"Ontario’s dentists are in direct risk of contracting COVID-19 and need to be on the priority list of health care professionals to be vaccinated early,” says Dr. Lesli Hapak, president of the Ontario Dental Association (ODA).

Dr. David Stevenson has a practice in Carleton Place, and leads the association’s COVID response in the province. He says once front-line workers like hospital staff and long-term care home workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine, dentists would like to be considered a priority in the medical field.

"We can’t physically distance, we have to ask the patients to remove their masks, we need to do aerosol-based procedures," Dr. Stevenson says. "In order for us to do our jobs, we have to put our self at somewhat of a compromised position."

The province has not released information on which health care workers will be in line for the next round of vaccines distribution.

The ODA says being one of those next on the list will help ease the burden on the medical system.

"We do want to keep people out of going to the emergency department for dental issues and dental emergencies," Dr. Hapak said. "So we need to keep dentists and our team healthy to provide that care."

"Our businesses are like a little mini hospital and we treat healthcare and it’s vital to overall care," says Stevenson.

Dentist offices have implemented many safety features through the pandemic, like face shields and reducing the number of patients that come through the office in a day.

Dr. Michaela Fitzgerald has a practice on Metcalfe Street in Ottawa. She says she feels comfortable with the safety measures in place. Still, to get the vaccine, would come as a big relief.

"We’re working exactly where that virus is replicating," said Dr. Fitzgerald. "The risk we’re exposed to which is far greater than many, many other professions or organizations out there."