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CHICAGO — Oral health can be a concern for people who are sheltering at home.
Dentistry is defined by close contact with patients, and distancing in the era of COVID-19 poses new challenges.
From the air down to the water, a local doctor is bringing high tech infection control to his neighborhood office.
When news of the virus shutting down China made its way to the U.S, Dr. Michael Czarkowski sunk his teeth deep into research.
“We’ve got to come up with a plan and I’m a pro-active person so I tried to figure out what do I have to do in my practice to protect my patients, my team and my family,” he said.
The dentist who typically sees 80 to 100 patients a week now sees about five for emergency procedures only.
And with worries about COVID-19, the phone isn’t exactly ringing off the hook.
“I can just tell some people are nervous,” he said. “But once they see what we’ve done, I can see their anxiety level diminish.”
Air filtration system bathed in UV light cleans particles from the air. The office has its own heating and cooling system.
“We can control the air coming in so we have kind of a positive pressure system you’d see in a hospital operating room,” Czarkowski said.
In the dental chair, droplets are an occupational hazard.
“We have to deal with patients as far as aerosols,” he said. “When we prepare teeth we drill, we create an aerosol. How are we going to control that? What’s the best thing we can do?”
Czarkowski said they use a unit that “takes the aerosol we create when we prepare a tooth for a filling, a crown or a bridge, and sucks it through the machine and runs it through a series of filters.”
Any aerosolized droplets are filtered through a medical grade system that eliminates virus bacteria and mold particles and vented out of the building.
“These units we can rotate the air and clean the air 16 times per hour,” Czarkowski said.
With all the new tools in place, Czarkowski hopes the high tech will ease some of the pain when it comes to a visit to the dentist.
“They know me. They trust me. They expect me to provide and take care of them,” he said. “I take that responsibility seriously.”
All the new technology and the necessary PPE adds up. Czarkowski said he will have to consider an infection control fee to cover the added costs.