As you return to your practice and begin seeing patients in the time of COVID-19, it’s important to implement additional precautionary measures to account for healthy-seeming patients who can still spread the virus. While the CDC has laid out guidelines for infection prevention and control in dental settings, we’ve created a 3-Point Guide to streamline the day-to-day steps you can take to ensure your safety and that of your staff and patients.
The 3-Point Guide
A. Health questionnaires
Prior to making appointments, a questionnaire about a potential patient’s health is an important place to start screening. Asking questions like whether a patient has been out-of-country in the past month or out-of-state in the past 14 days helps narrow down patients that could potentially have been exposed to COVID-19. Questionnaires should be filled out at least 48 hours prior to an appointment. A follow-up questionnaire should be administered at the time of the appointment to ensure nothing has changed.
B. Temperature monitoring
Because of the vast number of asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, it’s important to monitor any symptoms that patients and staff may not perceive. Staff members’ temperatures should be taken every day, and a patient’s temperature should be taken upon his or her arrival to their appointment. While use of a contactless thermometer is suggested, any thermometer will suffice, as long as all contact surfaces are properly disinfected after use. Find CaviWipes here.
II. Social Distancing
A. The new lobby setup
Once you’re past the pre-screening stage, it’s time to look to your office and see what changes you can implement that will help your staff and patients effectively socially distance. While many practices are opting for patients to wait in their cars until it is their turn, it may not be practical for you. In these cases, staggering appointments to avoid more than one patient in the lobby at a time and spacing the chairs in your waiting area to at least six feet apart can make all the difference.
B. Face masks for all
Many states have made wearing face masks in public a requirement for everyone. You can enforce this at your practice and make sure all incoming patients are wearing a face covering so that, in the case of there being more than one person in the lobby, everyone is still protected.
III. Low-Exposure Treatment
Even though you may take all the precautions necessary to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19, you could still have a patient carrying the virus asymptomatically. For this reason, when it comes to chairside, all staff members should strictly adhere to the ADA’s guidelines on PPE. Layering N95, or equivalent, KN95 masks with 3-ply masks and wearing face shields along with protective gowns enables you to create a reliable barrier between you and your patient.
B. The Use of Rubber Dam
In addition to being a great way to isolate and provide long-lasting treatment, rubber dam effectively creates a barrier between the patient’s airborne particles and you and your team. Both for your dentistry and for your safety, using rubber dam during procedures has an array of benefits. Find all your rubber dam instruments here (now 25% off).
C. High Volume Evacuation (HVE) Tips
You’re probably already using these in your office, but today, HVE suction tips have become essential in that they have proven to be considerably more effective than using just saliva ejectors in reducing aerosols at chairside. In fact, studies have shown that using HVE can reduce 90%-98% of aerosols. When used in combination with rubber dam, you can feel confident, even in these uncertain times, that you’ve done your part in protecting your patients and yourself.