The Effect of COVID-19 on our Dental Practice and Your Next Visit
Written By: Carly Peterschmidt, DMD
[Updated July 9, 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.
We want you to be aware that the nationwide shutdown of non-urgent dental procedures in March and April, as well as adherence to current social distancing and other safety recommendations, has created a mass amount of rescheduling of dental cleanings, as well as restorative dental procedures. Our small dental practice is doing everything we can to get everyone rescheduled. We GREATLY appreciate your patience and understanding with rescheduling of appointments. If we contact you about the need to move your appointment, please know that we aren’t moving your appointment because we want to or because we don’t want to see you. Believe us, we do! We will likely be dealing with a backlog of rescheduling until Fall.
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.
- Patient and Staff Screening
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.
All staff and patients will have their temperature checked on the date of your visit. Patient masks will not be removed until after the temperature has been checked. Pre-treatment hydrogen peroxide rinses will be performed on all patients, 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.
- Personal Protective Equipment
It is a state requirement to wear a mask in indoor public spaces. We are following this requirement, and ask that you do not enter our office without a mask. After you are seated and we take your temperature, we will let you know when it is safe to take off your mask for treatment.
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.
- 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 😊.
- Social Distancing
We are limiting the number of staff and patients 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. 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.
- Aerosol-Producing Procedures
There are certain procedures in dentistry that produce large amounts of aerosols. Aerosolized viral particles can cause a higher risk for disease transmission. There are methods to reduce aerosols that we are implementing in our office. These methods include improved high-volume evacuation techniques, use of rubber dams when appropriate, and HEPA air filtration.
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, 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 are looking forward to seeing you again at your next dental visit!