Dentistry is traditionally a hands-on, close-contact profession with very strict, precise, safe, and sterile protocols in place. That said, navigating the new protocols during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic has proven challenging even for dentists. However, dental offices have answered the call by adapting and incorporating many new and advanced protocols to make it the safest experience possible for our guests, says investor Steve Mascarin based in Toronto, Ontario.
New protocols came into place for dental settings and practices when the pandemic struck. These new practices not only extend to guidelines during appointments, but also how the appointments are being scheduled, adds Steve Mascarin.
Limiting Patient Intake
While obviously most routine dental procedures need to be done within close proximity, there are other ways dental offices can increase safety for both patients and staff, explains Steve Mascarin.
One of the keys is limiting the number of patients in the office at any given time. That means the staff may book patients in particular intervals so patients aren’t arriving at the same time. It can also mean enforcing how many people are in the waiting room by removing some of the chairs to maintain space. If there is already the maximum number of people waiting inside for their appointment, other visitors may have to return or wait in their car until space opens up. Steve Mascarin has branded it “seat to seat service” as in straight from the car to the sterile dental chair. No more passing by other people. One of the positive outcomes of this is it has made many dentists increase their efficiency to be on time and minimize waits.
Some dental offices are recommending that patients arrive at their appointment alone, unless a ride is required. As a further deterrent, some offices have removed magazines and toys for kids that normally occupy family members during visits.
Depending on the procedure, a dental office may keep a treatment room empty between patients for a predetermined amount of time. This also allows an opportunity for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
Investing In Protective Equipment
Dentists across Ontario have invested a significant amount into providing safer experiences for staff and patients, notes Steve Mascarin. That includes adding safety partitions to help block droplets that could contain viruses, while others have installed air purifiers to help filter the indoor environment. These new HEPA filters incredibly filter and turn the air around in minutes for constant flow of fresh, clean, sterile air. Extending walls to reach the ceiling to properly seal off treatment rooms is another approach being taken.
While dental staff need to be close to patients to administer care, they are also wearing additional personal protective equipment (PPE) that includes masks, gloves, and aprons. That is in addition to the masks that are required to be worn by patients (when not being treated). Due to this considerable added expense, dentists are adding a PPE fee to patient invoices. Steve Mascarin says most patients are very appreciative of the great lengths dentists have gone to for safety and understanding of this nominal fee.
The PPE is in addition to other measures taken by dentists and other healthcare professionals such as providing hand sanitizer to eliminate contact risk, as well as outlining proper procedures for hand washing. Any unnecessary contact between a patient and a dentist, such as shaking hands, is also being avoided until further notice.
Making Use of Virtual Appointments
There may be some opportunities for dentists to communicate with patients without needing to be in the same room as one another, explains Steve Mascarin. For example, patients might be screened for COVID-19 over the phone or online prior to coming into the office.
The “teledentistry” approach becoming more popular can be useful to help alleviate anxiety of patients that are experiencing a dental issue. While talking to a patient over the phone (or video link), a dental professional may be able to determine whether they might be experiencing a dental emergency that requires more urgent care.
Some practices have adopted a “teledentist” service that allows a patient to speak directly to a licensed dentist for advice and guidance. Live video appointments are also being made available to allow dentists an opportunity to assess the problem even more accurately. Dentists may be able to prescribe any required medications over the phone or over-the-counter remedies might be recommended.
Meanwhile, dentists can update patients about the newest protocols and dental industry innovations through social media channels instead of explaining it all to them in person.
When it comes to interacting with staff, dental teams can meet virtually using video teleconferencing software rather than meeting in person. This is important to share information and to maintain the morale of the team.
Don’t Delay Dental Checkups, Says Steve Mascarin
While the World Health Organization announced during the summer that patients could consider delaying non-essential dental care, that’s not the case in Canada. A statement from the Canadian Dental Association notes that the announcement only applies to areas that have uncontrolled outbreaks of COVID-19, which did not include Canada. Precautions and practices taken by Canadian dentists mean patients can continue their regular routine of professional oral health care, explains Steve Mascarin.
Putting off seeing a dentist for extended periods of time can lead to advanced oral health issues, warns Steve Mascarin. If you have concerns about how your dental office is keeping patients safe during COVID-19, you should call the office in your area to learn more and make an appointment for a routine checkup.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes