Dentists office have wrapped up their first full week of reopening since being shut down in mid March amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
From special mouth wash to waiting in your car for a text message, your next visit to the dentist’s office will feel a lot different.
Dr. Field Harrison of Mint Dentistry said they’ve seen an uptick in patients since the State Dental Board voted to let Texas dentists resume performing elective procedures and providing non-urgent care beginning May 1.
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He said if your next dentist appointment - no matter where you go – will involve lots of personal protection equipment for both patient and dentist. His office is requiring everyone to wear PPE like face shields, goggles, masks, gowns and gloves.
Patients will be required to wear a mask. One will be supplied to patients if they don't have one upon arrival to the appointment.
A recent emergency meeting by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners requires N95 or equivalent masks for any employee within 6 feet of a procedure. Some dental hygienists are also no longer using certain cleaning machines that put out a lot of aerosols, making your experience different but a lot safer.
"We're also giving pre-procedural mouth wash to patients to help kill any bacteria in the oral cavity. We’re wiping down every surface that gets touched, every time it gets touched,” said Harrison.
If you were already nervous at the dentist's office before the pandemic, Harrison said they're doing everything they can to help patients feel at ease.
"And now that coronavirus is here to add another layer of anxiety, it definitely is a gentle touch, a gentle voice, not giving too much pressure to patients,” he said.
To ensure safety and ease patient concerns, many dentist office have closed waiting rooms.
Dr. Darya Timin, with DNA Dental in Dallas, is having patients wait in the car instead of the waiting room when she opens on Tuesday. A text message system will let them know when it's time to come in.
Outside PPE, she’s also implementing coronavirus screening questions and temperature checks. Her office even got rid of high-touch items like magazines so no one is tempted to cross-contaminate.
While this new work flow is a lot, Timin pointed out this just adds onto things dentists have been doing for years.
"When we're attending dental school, they kind of drill that into our head -- protecting ourselves is so important when delivering patient's care. I mean, we're in their mouths,” she said.
Harrison added, "I think that the dental office was already prepared because we already saw people that had different types of viruses and diseases. PPE gear was always important."
More importantly, dentists said they are also hopeful that patients don’t put off important procedures out of fear or procrastination.
"Dental health is really detrimental to your overall health. Inflammation in your mouth is associated with all sorts of inflammatory disease in our body,” said Timin.
Harrison said what happens in your mouth can affect your immune system. "It's very wise to get your teeth cleaned right now, you don't want to be fighting this virus with a dirty mouth. From a dentist's perspective, you want a focused immune response," he said. "It's really important to have a clean oral cavity, so your body is not fighting the bacteria in your mouth and potentially this virus."
In the meantime, Mint Dentistry is continuing another weekend of giving away groceries to families in need. The next food giveaway is scheduled for Saturday, May 16 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 2433 W. Davis Street in Dallas.