How dentists have adjusted their practices during a pandemic

With everyone wearing masks, shields and gowns, the waiting room closed and magazines nowhere in sight, your next trip to the dentist might be a little jarring.

Although many businesses have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, dentists have faced some of the biggest challenges because numerous procedures routinely use instruments that can create droplets and aerosols, posing potential risks of transmission.

We spoke with Dr. Mandeep “Mona” Sidhu of Smile Line Dentistry in Antioch and Livermore about the challenges she and other dentists have faced in trying to make their offices and practices virus-free and assuring leery patients it’s safe to return.

Q. How has the dentistry business been affected by COVID-19?

A. “We were closed for two and a half months, starting on March 16, the day the shelter-in-place order came from the county and then we reopened on June 1 when the dental board cleared dental offices for regular patients. During the closure, we were seeing emergency cases only. Like once a week we’d go in and see two or three patients who were in pain; no treatment was being done to not have aerosols. It was whatever could be done without a handpiece or ultrasonic devices. There were no fillings, no treatment per se, or crowns — only for symptom relief. If something broke, we would put a flowable liquid cover on it just to cover it so the sharp edges were not sharp any more and the area was not exposed, or put a temporary filling to close it but not actually do the restorative work.

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When we did open, things were slow. Definitely patients were anxious about safety, so it has taken a lot of training of staff and then also reassuring patients of all the steps that were taken so that they feel safe to come in. Pre-COVID versus post-COVID, I would say we have lost 20 to 30% business.

Q. What are the specific risks with dental procedures and how do you deal with them?

A. Dental practices are considered high risk because most dental procedures involve aerosols and it is all coming from the mouth, which is the mode of transmission of the virus. How do we deal with them is we try to reduce the risk by reducing aerosols. We have switched to doing procedures via hand wherever possible, like even for cleanings doing a hand scaling versus an ultrasonic to reduce the aerosol there and similarly for any other procedure.

To reduce the risk of transmission, the steps that we have taken involved not only employee training to follow the most stringent guidelines of infection control… (Before treatment), patients use a hydrogen peroxide mouth rinse and you have to rinse and swish it around for a minute. It reduces the viral load in the mouth. Even if there was someone who has been undiagnosed and maybe they had some virus in their mouth, we are clearing the area that we are going to be working in so there is no transmission in that aerosol again. While …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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