Emergency dentist during COVID-19, the risks, precautions and how everyone has a new role to play.
How the world has changed in 2020! COVID-19 is here and we have to adapt. Here we will tell you how things changed to maximise safety during the pandemic.
Natural anxieties about visiting an emergency dentist with any kind of problem, will increase as we are now worried about the risks of contracting a disease that we still know so little about.
As an emergency dental clinic we have had to adapt, for our safety and yours. Things have changed. New protocols and procedures are adopted every day to help keep up with any new nugget of information.
Even though the current situation is scary, with the information that we now have at hand, we are able to provide a safe environment for you to attend with confidence.
Dental practices are already well maintained and have procedures for disinfection and decontamination that were already providing safe care.
Your next visit may be a little different, but it’s nothing to worry about and may actually feel safer and less anxious.
How things have changed for the patient.
Triage. Your practice may ask you questions about your COVID status and whether you have experienced any symptoms, or come into contact with anyone who has recently. This is to ensure that the clinic is exposed to a minimum for the safety of staff and other patients. That doesn’t mean that you cannot be helped if you have a dental emergency-there are clinics set up to help patients who are potentially COVID positive.
Social distancing. You may be asked to fill out forms online prior to your arrival. Many clinic have adopted a “one in, one out” system, so as to minimize contact with other patients. Clinics will have adapted to help maintain a 2m distance in traffic areas like the waiting room. You may be asked to wait in your car until the clinic is ready to receive you.
Temperature. You may have your temperature taken to ensure that you are not running a COVID related fever.
Testing. Some clinics are providing COVID tests for the patients and staff.
Patient disinfection. Upon entry you may be asked to wash your hands and disinfect them with alcohol gel. All surfaces that you may touch are regularly cleaned, but you should avoid touching anything unnecessarily. Masks may be provided to patients to wear in certain circumstances.
Ideally try to attend on your own, unless you do require a chaperone for a justifiable reason.
You may find screens placed around the reception desk to help create an additional barrier.
Most clinics would appreciate patients using the toilet prior to their appointment, as it will minimize your time in the clinic, reduce the surfaces touched and save time on cleaning another room.
Cost and financial impact. Avoid paying by cash, but if this is not possible, please count it into a bag or envelope. You may receive any receipts electronically.
You may find that there is an increase in the cost of your visit. This is due to the impact of COVID-19 on the supply and cost of PPE, additional cost of disinfection and a general increase in the cost of most supplies.
How things have changed for the dental staff.
Personal safety equipment. Most staff will be using PPE dependent upon their role. This will include impervious gowns, face screens, respirators and goggles.
Surface disinfection. Most of the surfaces are already cleaned with disinfectants effective against COVID-19, but more care is now taken with surfaces that patients may inadvertently touch, like door handles.
Fallow periods. Currently, it is assumed that all patients may have COVID-19. This allows the staff to use universal procedures to minimize risk of transmission. This means that clinic rooms need to be left to fallow, in case there is any coronavirus in the atmosphere in the room. This fallow time allows any corona to “fall” to the surface, prior to disinfection. The fallow time is dependent upon the procedure performed, and any mitigating factors.
Ventilation and air hygiene. Surgeries will allow thorough ventilation in order to reduce any coronavirus in the air. This can be done by the opening of doors and windows. The clinic door should remain shut during any procedures.
Some practices are using air purifiers to help “filter” or reduce airborne pathogens. Fogging with anti-viral disinfectants will also allow coating of surfaces that may be missed by manual procedures.
Hypochlorous acid is a naturally occurring chemical in the human body, and a very potent disinfectant. This makes it a very good fogging chemical, and it is safe for humans. In addition it does not bleach surfaces, although it does have a mild chlorine smell.
Types of procedures and time management. Social distancing and fallow periods have an impact on the number of patients that can physically be seen in a day. This may lead to longer waiting periods of patients to get appointments.
In order to minimise risk, dentists may delay certain routine procedures that generate an aerosol until a safer time.
Patient considerations. Certain patients due to age, or medical conditions may be more vulnerable to COVID. As a result your dentist may recommend delaying non-urgent care, or refer you to a special clinic in an emergency. Your dentist may be able to video call you to give you a virtual triage and help.
So, is it safe?
All in all, with sensible precautions and some common sense, there’s no reason why patients should be worried about getting emergency dental treatment. Yes, things have changed, and everyone has been affected as a result, but together we can provide a safe environment and service.