Some dental hygiensts worried as many dentist offices reopen

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?

New procedures from dentists

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.”

Fear among hygienists

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 six feet, please don’t put us six to eight inches from an open mouth.”

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Mike Stunson covers real-time news for McClatchy. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter and the Lexington Herald-Leader as a breaking news reporter.
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