Dentists Reopen with Increased Social Distancing, Masks
Dentists are doing what they can to make their offices meet social distancing guidelines and open up to patients.
One of the keys to safety for both of the dentists we spoke with involves testing people for COVID-19 before they even come into the office.
“We take temperatures of staff who arrive in the morning and go through a sheet to make sure they don’t have a cough or a fever, so we can protect the staff as well as the patients,” said Dr. Jeffrey Steele from Bassett Creek Dental. “It’s been an adjustment for everybody.”
Patients can also expect some precautions that have become commonplace in society, social distancing. There’s fewer chairs in the waiting room and small adjustments, like a cup for ‘disinfected pens’ and a container for ‘used pens.’
The practice also invested in a hospital-grade filtration system for the air.
During the Stay-at-Home order, the practice was closed to patients on an emergency basis for about seven weeks. Bassett Creek Dental weathered the shutdown in large part because they could take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
“It’s called PPP and it’s available to small businesses under 500 employees,” explained Steele. “So that really helped us stay in business. Without that, I don’t think we would’ve been able to stay in business.”
“Like Drinking Through a Fire Hose”
Community Dental Care in Robbinsdale, which serves patients on medical assistance or patients who don’t have insurance, have been learning and adjusting as they go. The nonprofit shut down operations in Robbinsdale and kept its Maplewood clinic open during the shutdown.
“It’s a little like drinking through a fire hose,” said Dr. Shivan Nelson, a dentist at the clinic. “For a lot of offices, they can step back and shut down, but for safety-net clinics like ours, if we do that, it means a lot more people in emergency rooms.”
The clinic has also gone through processes to increase social distancing and ordering protective gear for staff.
“It’s not a matter of flipping a light switch and have all the equipment we need,” said Shivan. “We need to be thoughtful and what equipment do we need and then being able to get ahold of it.”
Community clinics work on a small profit margin. Shivan says they must see a large volume of patients in order to stay in business. They plan on staying open longer in order to see more patients, but the increased costs associated with that in addition to personal protective equipment means there’s a hurdle ahead.
“Our mission is we want to be here for our patients, not just now but in the long term,” said Shivan.
“How we open, hope we see patients in a COVID world, we’re going to have to do all of that thoughfully.”
The Robbinsdale clinic hopes to reopen in mid-summer.
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