Well a lot has happened since March of 2020….thanks COVID-19. Unfortunately, we are now coming to terms with the new “normal” including your dental office. If you haven’t had your teeth cleaned or a cavity filled yet you may not know what to expect. I hope to help calm your fears when it’s time to go back to your dental office post pandemic.
If your dentist has not already reached out via mail/email/phone call to explain any changes in the office you should call them. There are specific CDC guidelines found here: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/statement-COVID.html. They should follow these guidelines to protect you the patient as well as themselves.
Most offices implemented more PPE (personal protective equipment) than ever before. You may see your Hygienist or Dentist wearing loupes (glasses with magnification), N95 masks, surgical cap, face shield, shoe coverings, and operating gown. These are part of our “new” norm. Some offices issued their staff PAPRs (Powered Air Purifying Respirator), which look like parts of a biohazard suite. This may seem over kill to the “average Joe” but its not! These machines are more accessible than N95 masks and are much safer/effective for the clinicians!
One of the first changes you may experience is being asked to stay in your car upon arrival. A lot of offices are asking patients to call when they arrive for their appointments. This keeps patients from sitting in the waiting areas and helps the office follow the social distancing guidelines of 6 feet apart.
They should take your temperature at the door and ask a series of questions regarding your health and exposure risk. Please answer honestly, its not just your health at risk but also other patients and staff health as well.
You will see plexiglass shielding the receptionist/front desk. Throughout the office there will be hand sanitizer and you may be asked to use it when you first arrive.
You may be asked to keep your mask on until they are ready to start your procedure. They should go thru the health history and discuss any problems with you while your mask is on. Please be understanding when we ask you to keep it on while sitting in the dental chair.
The dental office should have HEPA filtration systems in the clinic or in each operatory. They may also have closed off the different rooms to make them more secluded. This helps prevent aerosols from traveling into other patient areas. There maybe a new extra oral suctions which is a loud tube like device that will be near your mouth (picture above). Think of this machine like a vacuum that helps suck up aerosols from your mouth/spit. It is loud but necessary to prevent airborne pathogens from traveling throughout the office.
Your dental office could use a UV light or a fogger to help sanitize the rooms after you leave. Of course your office will continue with the normal sanitizing of instruments and disinfecting the rooms.
Once your procedure is done they probably will ask you to put your mask back on, then you can proceed to pay for the treatments rendered. Some offices may ask you to please bring in your own eye glasses/pens to use (this helps with cross contamination).
With all these changes occurring it may seem a little intimidating for patients who already have dental phobias as well as for young kids. Children unfortunately may not fully understand the issues of the pandemic and dental professionals may look scarier than ever to them. Keep in mind that you will need to take things slow with your kids and please try to stay patient as we help ease your child’s anxiety. Dental providers are use to making people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. 😉
Lastly please notify the office if you become ill or show signs/symptoms of COVID-19 or if you test positive in 1-7 days following your appt. This will help them inform the state health department, staff that worked on you, and notify other patients who were in the office the same day.
Please be patient with your dental office as there are so many changes and new protocols the staff need to follow. Appointment times are longer now in the post pandemic world. We take extra steps to disinfect rooms and have wait time in-between patients to let aerosols settle. It also maybe more difficult to get into the office for appointments. Offices are trying to prioritize patients and emergencies…so again please be understanding. We are ALL having to deal with this new “normal’ life.
If your dental office has done NOTHING different since the pandemic you may want to look for a new dental office…IMO.
I hope this article helps ease your anxiety and answer some questions when returning to your dental office. As always I hope this helped and starts the conversation!