Dentists Prepare To Reopen With Restrictions

Holly Quan
May 26, 2020 - 10:23 am

    Another sector is getting ready to reopen that may not have been missed as much as restaurants and retail: dental offices and orthodontists are preparing to welcome patients back, but the experience will look quite different.

    At orthodontist Dr. Dave Johnson’s practice in Alameda, patients and visitors have their temperature checked and answer basic questions before they walk in the door. Plexiglass now separates patients from the reception desk and from each other in treatment rooms, and two side-by-side sinks where kids would brush their teeth before their appointments have been taped off.

    “We have only about half as many patients as we’ve had in the past due to social distancing, which we still maintain even here in the office,” says Dr. Johnson of the many changes they’ve made. “You can’t come into the office without a mask. And then also we’re having the patients rinse with a Peroxyl rinse, which is essentially like a hydrogen peroxide rinse, 1.5%. We have them rinse for about 20-30 seconds and that just reduces the virus load.” 

    Many of the changes have been made not only to protect patients, but the staff as well. That is why Dr. Johnson now wears N95 masks, gloves and a gown before seeing patients. 

    “We as dentists are probably one of the higher levels of exposure because we’re working in the mouth which has virus,” he says.

    Getting that protective gear has been a struggle, which Dr. Johnson says is part of the reason why non-emergent clinics like his have been slow to open. “A full load of patients means that we’re going to run through a fairly big supply of PPE in just a couple of weeks… Up until now we’ve been told that we have to only do emergency patients… and I believe that’s because we’ve needed to reserve all of this PPE for front line responders.”

    That has been felt in the prices. Dr. Johnson says N95 masks are now costing him five times what he used to, but the supply is improving to the point where he feel comfortable seeing more patients.