I want to write and update you as to the evolving and very fluid situation concerning the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the dental office visit. The safety and health of our patients and staff is our highest concern and, first and foremost, we want you to know that we are following all Federal, State and CDC guidelines to protect all of us from this disease. As you know from the unprecedented steps being taken to contain this pandemic, many business and community gatherings are being postponed from anywhere between two weeks to a month or longer, to create “social distancing”. The intent of social distancing is to reduce the number of exposures from happening all at once and overwhelming the hospital system and specifically the need for ICUs and respirators. This is prudent and responsible. Earlier this week, President Trump said that this situation may not stabilize until July or August. In keeping with the nationwide 15-day shutdown, our office will be closed except for dental emergencies until April 30th.
Beyond this, we want you to know what we are doing in our response to this safety issue. Beginning March 16, and for the immediate future, we have made several changes in our protocols regarding patients visits to our office. In addition to our normal use of universal precautions that include masks, gloves, protective clothing, use of disposables, hand washing, treatment room cleaning and disinfection with hospital grade disinfectant, and instrument sterilization and packaging, we will now include the following: 1. The waiting room will be wiped down and cleaned twice a day as though it were an operatory where treatment is provided. All magazines and toys have been removed along with coffee service. Throughout our office, we will emphasize a minimalist approach to contact with each other and contact surfaces. We advise distancing in the waiting room or waiting in the car to be called. 2. Every day the staff will report for our morning meeting and have their temperature taken. Any elevation in temperature above 99.5° will be sent home. As patients enter the building, they too will be asked to wash their hands and have their temperature taken with the same protocols in effect. 3. We will ask about recent travel, symptoms or fever in the last 4 weeks, contact with someone infected with the virus, or immunocompromised status. The four major symptoms are temperature (100.4° or higher), dry unproductive cough, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. 4. If we are performing a procedure that might produce an aerosol, we will ask you to rinse with 1% Hydrogen Peroxide beforehand. We will also emphasize the use of the rubber dam for isolation of teeth as best during drilling and/or use of the Isolite as a second-best alternative. And finally, 5. We will want those patients at greatest risk (older than 65, severe cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and the immunosuppressed for any reason) of contracting COVID-19 to consider delaying elective dental treatment for this season of highest risk. As I said earlier, this is a fluid situation and new information and protocols will be forthcoming, but for now, these steps seem to me to be prudent and responsible as well.
It is almost impossible to believe this crisis has been thrust upon the world in such a short time. In some ways, I am reminded of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in that seemingly changed the world overnight. I suspect this too will become a time marker to be long remembered. And as with 9/11, I wonder what changes this new normal will bring. But certainly, this is a time to pull together in doing our part to control this outbreak. More than ever it is apparent how interconnected we are as human beings and how responsible we are for each other. As many of you know, my faith as a Christian is central to my practice philosophy. And it is times like these when the things that are truly valuable in life-like our health, our family and our faith-become the basis for our hope and courage to face tomorrow with gratitude. There are some difficult roads ahead, no doubt. But as we use science and medicine to guide us in the best course of action with this pandemic, we can also gather our faith to remember that our Creator is still in control with a plan for this world. Furthermore, along with this crisis, opportunities will come to love each other a little better too. We don’t want to miss that. Maybe we could use this social distancing time to actually close some distance and deepen the relationships within our families. Or, perhaps using some unplanned time off to get our bodies healthy. Or again, saying a prayer for those that are going to have it worse than we do. My hope and prayer is that, whatever is your new normal, the things most valuable in your life will have taken deeper root.
I want to thank you for letting me be your dentist, it is truly an honor to serve you. If you have any questions or concerns about our new protocols or just need reassurance about safety in the medical/dental setting, please give us a call. We’ll be glad to help.