Everything has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic – especially health care, including dental visits.
According to Dr. Jed Koops, dentist at Faist & Koops Family Dentistry in Beachwood, and Jacque Spurlock, dental hygienist at New Albany Smiles in New Albany, dental offices made changes to make patients comfortable when visiting the office.
Faist & Koops is focused on maintaining patient health and safety while also protecting employees, leading to a strict new infection control protocol, Koops said. Before an appointment, patients digitally sign a COVID-19 dental treatment consent form. Upon arriving at the office, patients call reception to let them know they arrived. The team will let them know when they are ready for the patient to come inside, he said.
“This way, nobody waits in the reception area and patients are not crossing paths with each other,” Koops said. “All patients are asked to wear a mask while entering and exiting the office. Everyone who enters the office, including staff, have their temperature checked so no one with a fever is allowed inside.”
Air filtration devices also run in the office, Koops said. During procedures that generate aerosolized air, additional protection is provided using Sentry Air suction devices with ultra-low particulate air filters “so patients can be assured that aerosols from one patient are not allowed to drift into another patient’s space.”
At New Albany Smiles, Spurlock said patients, staff and visitors get their temperature checked before entering the office. Hand washing is required before and throughout every appointment. Additionally, there are pre-procedural mouth rinses given to patients to reduce bacteria and high-efficiency particulate air filters to purify and clean the air are used in all rooms.
However, the biggest change patients will see at New Albany Smiles is how the staff will look, Spurlock said.
“We still have the same friendly staff, but our team looks different with additional disposable gowns, face shields and N-95 masks,” she said. “The public often doesn’t realize that dentistry has always been on top of infection control. We have been dealing with blood borne pathogens and protecting patients and ourselves for several decades from diseases like HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, the flu and the common cold.”
Both offices said leadership placed importance on these changes because of their wish to continue safely serving their communities.
“As dentists, our professional services are in constant need by the public,” Spurlock said. “We prevent and treat diseases that have been present since the beginning of humankind and show no indication of going away. Your oral health directly affects your overall heart health and body, so it’s important to keep it clean, maintained and go to the dentist regularly.”
Koops said, “We feel that maintaining oral health is crucial to overall health. We were very concerned that patients who stayed away from the dentist out of fear of COVID-19 were at risk for developing problems with their oral health, which could reduce their overall health and contribute to poor outcomes throughout their lives.”
Even after the pandemic eventually passes, some of these safety changes will likely stick around.
“I think the additional protective equipment that we are wearing is here to stay,” Spurlock said. “Just like with the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1980s that implemented gloves and masks, our additional PPE of gowns and face shields will likely stay. Dentistry is not elective, it is essential. This is a transforming time for dentistry, as many world problems are present and continue to increase.”
Koops said, “The majority of the changes we’ve made are likely to be maintained because they make us all healthier and safer. We are deeply committed to safety and health.”