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As dentist offices start to reopen following coronavirus shutdowns, many dental hygienists say they are worried it might be too soon to see patients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised elective procedures and non-urgent dental visits to be postponed. For dental offices that are open, the CDC’s recommendations include requiring everyone entering to wear a face mask or covering, screening patients for fever or coronavirus symptoms before they enter and screening employees before each shift.
Many offices are welcoming patients as states have started to reopen businesses. Each state allowing dentists to reopen has different standards that offices must follow.
So what are dentists doing to protect their patients and their workers as the coronavirus pandemic continues?
A dentist in the Pittsburgh area said patients will be screened before their arrival to see if they have any signs of coronavirus, according to KDKA. If they are accepted, their waiting room will be their car.
Dentists will have new equipment for protection and are being recommended to wear “face shields, better masks, possibly goggles, head covers and gowns,” Dr. Steven Crandall told KDKA.
A Cincinnati-area dentist told WXIX her office stocked up on face masks through a boat supply store. Dr. Rachelle Boudreau is requiring patients to “rinse with hydrogen peroxide for 30 seconds before their treatment to ease fear,” according to the station.
Nashville dentist Dr. Jeff Trembley told WSMV his practice will go back to using old-fashioned instruments to clean teeth because he does not want to use aerosol equipment for the time being.
That decision mirrors that of Michigan doctor Linda Park. She told WJRT that quality of air in offices will also be managed.
“Dental offices are going to look a lot different nowadays, as we move forward. They’re going to look a lot like hospitals because we are an aerosol producing facility,” Park told WJRT. “COVID-19 is transmitted through aerosol. Dental offices produce lots of aerosol.”
Despite precautions taken and new procedures in place, there is skepticism from some hygienists about reopening dental offices.
Hawaii dental hygienist Kristen Neville is urging her state to clarify what procedures are and are not urgent, according to Hawaii News Now.
“Right now there is a shortage (of personal protective equipment) and I think it’s very hard for regular dentists to get their hands on anything,” Neville said. “Even masks, full face shields are really, really hard to come by and N95 masks are very low and well in supply.”
Kyra Reames, a dental hygienist in Arkansas, said she worries that resuming elective procedures adds health risks for her and patients.
“We don’t think the risk of exposing extra people to potentially contracting this virus is worth it for us at this point,” she told KNWA. “They are asking us to electively let patients into our laps with no masks on them because we are working in their mouths.”
Indiana dental hygienist Jaime Harris told WTHR, “If social distancing is
Apr 30, 2020 at 12:05 AM
I am writing out of concern for Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision, announced on Monday, to allow dentist offices to go full speed ahead. From a health standpoint, this is incredibly irresponsible.
For over two months we have listened to all of the dangers of this elusive and deadly pandemic to now suddenly announce it’s OK to ask dental hygienists to work inside a possibly asymptomatic patient’s wide-open mouth for 45 minutes while only being about 6 inches away is ridiculous.
It’s a known health fact that the spread of COVID-19 is by air droplets that can stay in the air for up to three hours, which means the next three to four patients will be breathing the potentially deadly germs the previous patient exhaled since they were not wearing masks. Is this worth the risks just to get a nonemergency teeth cleaning or whitening?
Many people get their teeth cleaned every six months, so some might have missed one appointment while dental offices have been closed, which is not a life-or-death matter. The governor’s protocols of wearing masks, social distancing and putting up partitions cannot be applied to typical dentistry.
Dental hygienists usually don’t have access to all of the protective equipment doctors in hospitals have (who can now perform elective surgeries), so they should not be grouped in the same proclamation from the governor.
The governor now allows elective surgeries to reduce a patient’s pain or life-altering health condition, which I applaud, but teeth cleaning and whitening does not fall into these categories.
To allow these nonemergency dental procedures to proceed while not even knowing when a decision will be made for it to be OK to get a haircut is totally irresponsible! Let’s get Ohioans tested first!
Larry Pogue, Blacklick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The American Dental Association has instructed dentist’s offices to remain closed through the end of April in most cases as part of the effort to slow the transmission of COVID-19.
But some dentist’s offices are opening their doors under certain circumstances for the very same reason.
Statistics show Americans go to hospitals once every 14 seconds for dental problems, or more than 2 million times annually.
“My main goal in being open at this time is to make sure we play a role in the health industry and kind of help prevent the clogging up of our emergency rooms,” Parkville Modern Dentistry’s Dr. Matthew Yip said.
Parkville Modern Dentistry looks a little different than it did a month ago. You won’t find people in for routine cleanings and regular checkups right now.
But that doesn’t mean Yip isn’t staying busy.
“We actually have been getting a few more calls lately because there have been people that have emergencies, and they are having a little harder time finding someone that is open and available to them,” Yip said.
Yip is still extracting teeth and responding to true dental emergencies. First he’s using video conferencing, or tele-dentistry, to see if the patient really needs urgent care.
“Sometimes a patient may have a seasonal allergy that might cause their teeth to ache because of the sinuses located above their teeth. Sometimes we are able to recognize that just from talking to them when they are experiencing this symptoms,” Yip said.
His office is taking every precaution it can, including wearing N95 masks, face shields, disposable gowns and sterilizing everywhere.
But he said he has a responsibility to stay open for these procedures because if he and at least some others don’t, he knows where the patients will end up.
Parkville Modern Dentistry is one of 800 Pacific Dental Services offices nationwide remaining open during the coronavirus pandemic for certain procedures. The offices have helped launch #DentalER, urging patients to stay out of hospital ERs and go to their dentists for dental emergencies.