By ELIZABETH KING
Many things have changed over the past few months, but one thing has remained the same: our dental community’s commitment to the safety of patients. While we have been sheltering in place, dentists have been enhancing safety protocols and preparing to care for patients in this new environment.
“The dental profession has always focused on infection control to keep patients and staff safe,” said Dr. G. Bret Anderson, dental practitioner at Dental Care of Bixby and chief of dental services for the Oklahoma Air National Guard 138th Fighter Wing. “We are staying on top of new guidelines and implementing additional safety procedures to create a safe environment for our patients.”
Dental providers follow recommendations made by the American Dental Association (ADA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to stay up-to-date on any new rulings or guidance that may be issued.
Enhanced infection control processes have been put in place so that when patients receive care, it’s both safe and comfortable. “In fact, with the extra protection and cleaning protocols in place, dental offices are safer than grocery stores,” Dr. Anderson said.
Some of the changes patients may see when it is time for next appointments include:
Pre-Screening: The dental provider will ask some screening questions before visits and again when patients are in the office to check for symptoms and exposure.
Upon Arrival: The dental provider will take patient temperatures, and ask them to wash hands, wear a mask when not receiving treatment and rinse the mouth before examination.
Waiting Area: Waiting rooms will no longer offer magazines, children’s toys and so forth, since those items are difficult to clean and disinfect.
Scheduling: Appointments will be managed to allow for social distancing between patients and to reduce the number of patients in the reception area at any one time. That might mean that patients will be offered fewer options for scheduling future appointments.
Since some people do not have access to a dentist or may not be comfortable going to the dentist office yet, technology is offering a new way to provide dental care.
Teledentistry utilizes a variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual dental and education services. This includes live video discussions between a patient and a provider through accepted HIPAA compliant software; and remote patient monitoring, where dental records and health information is collected in one location and sent to a dental provider in another location for diagnosis at a later point in time.
“Teledentistry is an excellent way to provide dental care and education in a way that reduces risk,” Dr. Anderson said.
Although dental care my look a little different now, the dental community is eager to resume seeing patients and help people get their dental care on track.
“The dental community is doing everything possible to create an environment where patients feel safe,” Dr. Anderson said. “We look forward to giving our patients the highest quality dental care now and in the future.”