The Effect of COVID-19 on our Dental Practice and Your Next Visit
Written By: Carly Peterschmidt, DMD
[Updated October 16, 2020]
Not even in my wildest imagination did I anticipate a worldwide pandemic that would affect our dental practice in the way the Coronavirus has! We all have been affected.
This has not been an easy transition for us, but our team has banded together to implement necessary change and we are all passionate about continuing to serve YOU. We strongly believe in the role oral health plays in overall health and wellness and we will continue to strive to create a positive dental experience for you.
The Journal of the American Dental Association has recently come out with a report showing that less than 1% of dentists have had confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. This shows how effective the nationally recommended protocols have been to prevent transmission of this virus.
We want you to know that we are following the current recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Dental Association, and Oregon Health Authority. As stated in the press release from the Governor’s Office, there are certain guidelines, which were outlined by the Oregon Health Authority, to help medical facilities approach resuming patient care. These guidelines state that our office must:
- Have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for our clinicians as recommended by the CDC
- Adhere to strict infection control policies as recommended by the CDC
- Decrease caseload volume to maximize social distancing
- Implement patient screening techniques
COVID-19 SAFETY PROTOCOLS
Below, I have outlined the changes that we have made with the health and safety of our team, patients, and community in mind:
- Patient Communication
During this time, we will be communicating more with patients who have upcoming appointments. If you have elected to receive text messages, you will receive an appointment reminder one week prior to your visit. One day prior to your visit, the new car
check-in procedures will be described. Two hours prior to your visit, you will receive a link to fill out a Coronavirus-specific wellness form to screen for COVID-19. Two days after your visit, you will receive a follow-up message to report any symptoms within 14 days after your visit.
For those who do not have a cell phone, all of these procedures will be performed verbally via phone call.
- Personal Protective Equipment
It is a state requirement to wear a mask/ face covering in indoor public spaces. We are following this requirement, and ask that you do not enter our office without a mask. We ask that all patients wear a face covering when entering the building until we instruct them to remove it and also upon completion of their visit/ exit of their treatment room. If there is anyone who is unable to wear a face covering, please make special arrangements by calling us prior to entering our facility.
You will notice we will be wearing extra protection during your visit. Where we used to welcome you without our protective gear on, we hope you will understand and not find it unfriendly when we greet you with all of our protective gear already on. All providers will be wearing appropriate masks for the procedure being performed, as outlined by the CDC and OSHA.
- Patient and Staff Screening
All staff are screened daily for symptoms and our temperatures are recorded. All patients will have their temperature checked immediately upon being seated in their dental chair. Patient masks will not be removed until after the temperature has been checked. Pre-treatment hydrogen peroxide rinses will be performed on all patients able to swish and expectorate, as it is theorized that it would kill any viral particles in the oral cavity. Post-operative follow-up texts/ calls will be made to learn if anyone develops symptoms within 48 hours of their dental visit.
We have adopted pre-screening questions recommended by the CDC to help identify anyone who may be at higher risk of having COVID-19 and these individuals will be rescheduled. If you are in a higher risk group that has been known to have a higher likelihood of severe complications if COVID-19 was contracted, we encourage you to consider your comfort level with leaving your residence at this time, as the chance of contracting COVID-19 is higher when leaving your home. These higher risk groups include those who are age 60 or older, immunocompromised individuals, and those with heart, lung, or diabetic conditions.
- Infection Control
Thankfully, the dental profession was already enforcing strict infection protocols for prevention of disease transmission prior to the Coronavirus. The surface disinfectants and sterilization methods we use are approved for killing SARS-CoV-2. We now allow extra time for aerosolized particles to settle before wiping rooms, per the current recommendation of the ADA.
In addition, we have increased disinfection of non-clinical areas, such as the reception area and bathroom. We have removed items from the office that patients frequently touch, like the magazines and books, pens, beverage station, and lip balm jar. If there is anything you would like that you don’t see out, please just ask 😊.
- Aerosol-Producing Procedures
In theory, we would hope that no one who makes it past our screening procedures and is instructed to take off their mask for dental work would be infected with Coronavirus, but we do know that those who are carriers of the disease may not necessarily be symptomatic.
There are certain procedures in dentistry that produce large amounts of aerosols. Aerosolized viral particles can cause a higher risk for disease transmission. We have implemented multiple methods to reduce aerosols to prevent others from breathing in these particles. One major advantage we have in our office are the walls and cabinetry between operatories. We have upgraded our HVAC system filters and have installed HALO- LED Whole Home Air Purification Systems. Within each operatory, we have implemented improved high-volume evacuation techniques, as well as individual HEPA air filtration units with redirection of air flow towards the filters. We have also increased time between appointments to allow for particles to settle and be filtered out of the air.
- Social Distancing
To limit contact between individuals, we are limiting the number of patients allowed in our office during this time. Outside of treatment areas, we are adhering to 6-foot distancing from one another and wearing masks. We have implemented car check-in features to prevent patients from waiting in the reception area. If you do not have a car to wait in, please do call us to make special arrangements.
We will be strategizing daily to keep patients from being in contact with one another during check-in and check-out times. This may involve pre-filling out paperwork before your appointment. We will let you know details before your appointment. Also, we ask that during this time you do not bring anyone with you to your appointment, with the exception of parents of minors, caregivers, and interpreters.
We have been working since May with these new protocols and we have felt very safe treating our patients. We have had positive feedback from patients about also feeling safe and thanking us for what we are doing to follow the guidelines of our governing bodies. Please do know that if you are not comfortable coming in at this time, we understand. There are risks to postponing dental care, especially for this extended period of time, however, there are some who could have life-threatening complications if they were to contract the virus, so it is up to you to decide what your comfort level is. We encourage you to discuss this with your primary care physician if you still do not feel comfortable due to other health conditions.
We are looking forward to seeing you again at your next dental visit!