Thrive-Health Guide Southern West Virginia August 2020 - Page 23

For dentists, the risk of coming into contact with those respiratory droplets is greatly increased because most dental procedures result in aerosols, which are small airborne particles that can also spread the virus. “If you analyze what we do, then we could potentially be a super spreader in no time because when we use a drill or the ultra-sonic cleaning tool, it creates a big aerosol,” Childress said. Knowing the added risks that come with his profession as well as the safety measures being put in place to account for those risks, Childress said he has leaned on other dentists in the area to make sure he was doing all he could to ensure the safety of his patients and staff. “There was probably 15 or 20 of us on a group text the week before everything really went down and we were consulting with each other, ‘Hey, I ran into this. What do you think about this idea?’ and bouncing stuff off of each other,” Childress said. “We did that probably daily for about the first three, four weeks and then a couple times a week since then.” Childress said they talked about what they thought some of the guidelines might and should be in order to better prepare themselves for their eventual reopening. While the support from the other local dentists has been great, reopening has come with its own set of challenges. Dr. Travis Wills, a dentist with Shady Spring Dental Care, said their biggest challenge has been in regard to patient flow. Wills said the waiting rooms are essentially not existent now as everyone, including the patients and staff, have to be placed and staggered in a way that limits all interactions. “The office that we work mostly out of is a larger office that has multiple dentists and multiple hygienists and it’s been much more difficult than we anticipated coordinating all the patients arriving and not being able to use the waiting room as we did before,” he said. Preparation for a visit at any one of the dentist offices located in the area typically begins the day before an appointment with a call to the patient in order to conduct a pre-screening COVID-19 questionnaire. Patients are asked a number of questions including whether they have flu-like symptoms or a fever or have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. On the day of their appointment, patients must wait in their car and undergo another screening by a staff member, which includes the same type of questioning and a reading of their temperature. Patients must also sign a release signifying that they understand they are increasing their risk of contracting COVID-19 by entering the office. Inside the office, prior to escorting a patient to his or her room, everything has to be cleaned and sanitized, a process which Beckley dentist Kevin Bailey said typically takes about 15 minutes. During the procedure, almost everyone working in the room will wear a full-length surgical gown, a mask and a face shield. Childress said they try to make sure they have specific personal protective equipment for each room. “So the (mask) I use in treatment room 1 only stays in that room. So when I leave that room to go do an exam or a hygiene check, I have to take that mask off and leave it in that room, and the gown and the face shield, and then I but on my general mask, walk down the hall, take it off, put on the hygiene room 2 masks and gown and face shield and then do the checkup,” he said. “The first two days were rough remembering everything, but it’s starting to be just routine now.” At Shady Spring Dental Care, Wills said they rotate the type of procedure doctors do each day to further cut down on the possibility of contracting or spreading the virus. “The model that we have is we rotate through. Each doctor does a hygiene day – so today I did not do any aerosol procedures today; I just checked all the hygiene patients in the practice today while the other doctors were able to do their work,” he said. Overall, Wills said patients have been receptive to these added safety measures regardless of their personal feelings or beliefs regarding the virus. He also said that very few patients have canceled citing safety concerns. Wills, Bailey and Childress said the added safety measures have been costly. AUGUST 2020 • THRIVE • 23