As dental offices across Nebraska, including we here at North Creek Family Dentistry, prepare to re-open after 7 weeks or more of closure, there are a lot of questions about what we can do to help keep patients, staff, and the community safe. Dental offices typically produce a lot of aerosols containing germs in patients’ saliva, putting us at great risk of spreading coronavirus particles to those present in the office.
The good news is that dental professionals, perhaps more than most other health industries, have been aware of the risks of spreading germs from patients to others in the office and have been taking steps to mitigate these risks for decades. Therefore, our usual disinfection protocols are very strict. Our protocols at North Creek Family Dentistry are outlined in this blog from March: https://northcreekfamilydentistry.com/keeping-clean/
However, given the threat level of this particular virus, we are taking even more precautions to be sure we are operating at the minimum risk level appropriate for these unusual times.
The biggest way we are doing dentistry different at this time is by completing as many procedures as possible without producing aerosols. This means that your hygiene appointments will likely be completed with hand instruments, rather than an ultrasonic instrument. Small fillings or non-critical work that can’t be completed without aerosols may be postponed until the number of coronavirus cases in Lancaster County declines. However, after nearly two months of only emergency treatment, we recognize that treatment that may not have been critical before and has been delayed may be critical now to prevent further spread and complications from dental diseases.
For procedures where aerosols must be produced, we are taking many new precautions to reduce germs in the aerosols. We will be using increased suction and isolation in the mouth so that particles in saliva are not aerosolized. We are only using our single-unit rooms where we can close the door to prevent spread of any particles to the rest of the office, and are rotating rooms so that patients are not exposed to aerosols from previous patients in the office. We are also adding air purification units to these rooms to filter and remove dangerous particles, including virus particles from ambient air in the room. The system we have will take 10-15 minutes to purify the operatory after we are finished producing aerosols, so we will schedule extra time to allow for this process.
Outside of the operatory, we are also taking many new preventative measures. We are screening patients via phone before their appointment to make sure they are not ill. We are also asking patients to wait in their cars rather than the waiting room, and will complete all parts of the visit in the closed-door operatory, including post-op care, scheduling future appointments, and collecting payment. We will also be taking the body temperature of every patient and every staff member daily with a no-touch thermometer. And of course, staff will be wearing additional personal protective equipment and leaving this equipment on throughout the appointment, rather than just during the actual treatment.
With all of these extra measures in place, we feel confident that we are minimizing risk of exposure to anyone in our office. Our disinfection and sterilization processes are constantly evolving to take into account new health threats and new equipment available to deal with these threats. If you have any questions about what we are doing or suggestions to help us continue to do better, we welcome discussion from our community. Our first priority is the safety of our community, and while every human interaction comes with some risks, we continue to do everything possible to make your visit at North Creek Family Dentistry safe for everyone. When you are ready to come back to the dental office, give us a call at 402-413-0505 to schedule. We have genuinely missed our patients and are excited to be able to get back to work!