After the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic, all sectors and industries have been working to adapt, modify and change their previous way of working in order to comply with the necessary health and safety regulations.
In March, many dental practices across the UK were made to close completely with some being allowed to stay open to perform only emergency procedures. As lockdown eases and dentists are permitted to reopen it is obvious that because of the close contact nature of dental treatments that practices will not yet be returning to what they were before.
So, what steps can Essex dental practices take to help ensure the safety of their patients and staff?
Each practice will differ in their handling of how they work going forward but some measures to be expected might include;
- Treatment Options
Certain equipment and procedures such as high-speed hand pieces, water spray or ultrasonic equipment which can cause aerosolised droplets to spread throughout the air and contaminate surfaces will be limited due to the risks associated with them. This will mean a reduced availability of certain treatment options such as;
- Dental fillings that will require a lot of drilling
- Root canals that require extensive drilling
- Implant replacements
- Tooth preparation for crowns or veneers
- Scale and polish using spray equipment
However, there are some cases in which dentists are able to use rubber dams which work to isolate the tooth during the procedure and can make some treatments safe and therefore possible to carry out.
The following treatments are more likely to be readily available but will depend on the individual patient requirements and the dental practice.
- Routine check ups and examinations
- Dental X rays
- Fitting lost crown
- Temporary fillings
- Denture repair / fitting
- Dental extraction that does not require a drill
- Simple filling with rubber dam
For those in urgent need of more high risk procedures there are dedicated urgent dental care centres that might be able to help but these are determined by suitability so it is worth discussing your needs with your dentist who will be able to guide you on the best course of action.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Dentists are already used to wearing PPE in the form of masks, gloves and even face shields where required. In order to adhere to the necessary health and safety protocols in regards to COVID-19 protection dental surgeries will retrain and inform staff on when and what PPE to wear, the correct disposal methods, hygiene and changeover as well as the correct order for which to put it on and remove all PPE.
Usually your dentist would greet you in the room and have a brief chat before your examination at which point, they would then put on their mask. This will now change to your dentist wearing a mask and other PPE already when you enter the room and keeping it on for the duration of your visit. This might include face shields, visors, gloves, aprons or gowns and will be changed or cleaned thoroughly in between every patient.
Patient screening is something that is likely to be seen across most practices, being used as the first defence against protecting the dentists, staff and other patients from potential infection. This can be in the form of contact free thermometers at reception and pre-screening questions such as –
- Have you had a fever in the last 14 days?
- Have you experienced any sudden onset breathing difficulties, shortness of breath or a cough in the last 14 days?
- Have you had any contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients in the past 14 days?
- Have you been to any gatherings, meetings, or had close contact with unacquainted people in the past 14 days?
- Have you visited any high-risk areas / places that have been locked down due to high numbers of new cases?
The responses from these answers and the results of the body temperature measurement will be processed by staff who will then follow the practices set guidelines on how to react. Depending on the answers and results they will be able to proceed with their appointment, have treatment postponed for 14 days, be given advice on isolation guidelines or directed for further medical attention.
- Dental Practices
There will be a lot of changes in the way that practices operate in regard to social distancing, hygiene, appointments and waiting areas.
- Social distancing rules within the waiting areas will need to be adhered to. This might require patients to wait outside until their designated appointment time, a one in-one out protocol and removed or blocked off seating.
- Reception desks will have protective Perspex screens and staff will wear PPE.
- Appointment times will be limited and scheduled further apart to allow for thorough room and equipment cleans or changeover in between patients.
- Patients are likely to be asked to wear masks during their time in the practice until they need to remove it for treatment.
- Hand sanitiser should be readily available.
- Opening times may vary in order to help accommodate more appointments or allow for additional cleaning measures.
- Digital / card payments required if possible.
- Enhanced cleaning at the end of the day, regular deep cleans of treatment rooms and high traffic areas as well as door handles, desks, chairs and computers.
- Is it Safe to Visit the Dentist?
At Sharrow Dental, our Essex dentists are doing everything they can to ensure that our patients receive the highest standard of care possible in these uncertain times.
We have overhauled our appointment practices, adjusted treatments, scheduling and cleaning routines and put in to place rigorous health and safety measures across the practice in order to make your visit as safe as possible.
If you would like further advice on visiting our practice and booking an appointment, then please do not hesitate to get in touch and our helpful staff will be happy to advise you.