Many dental practices have been sitting closed, deemed non-essential businesses during the coronavirus crisis. Or they’ve only seen patients on an emergency basis. States will soon slowly start reopening businesses. But that begs the question—how will this crisis change dental practices? Will there be new standards put in place? Will infection control finally get the attention it deserves? Mike Rust with ProEdge Dental and India Chance with Learn2Prevent join me to talk through the implications for dentistry in this episode of Talking with the Toothcop.
India shares an example of a client who saw a patient and found out after the fact that the patient was asymptomatic, but tested positive for the Coronavirus. He had rushed to reopen his practice and was immediately exposed to the virus. Now he’s suddenly faced with notifying everyone he’s come in contact with and closing his practice for another two weeks.
Do you have a plan in place to protect your practice? I’ve been telling clients to have a go-bag ready. If they’re exposed and can’t risk returning to their families, they need somewhere to quarantine for the next 14 days. Vaccines won’t be released anytime soon and dentists must implement everything possible to protect themselves, their staff, and their patients.
Dental offices often see patients who are ill, and exposure to aerosols and bodily fluids are unfortunately par for the course. But little has been done to rectify the problem. It’s sad that it’s taken a pandemic for people to open their eyes—but I’m amazed by the innovation and creativity that’s ensued. Solutions are being created and proposed and that needs to continue.
Patients need to be assured we are doing everything possible to protect them—So do your staff.
We’ve heard talk that many hygienists aren’t planning to return to their jobs because the risks they face are too great to overcome. Their PPE isn’t sufficient to protect them from the aerosols they’re exposed to. That’s why it’s imperative you do your research and make sure you and your staff are equipped with the proper PPE. Communicate to them that your practice is doing everything possible to maintain their health and safety.
I instructed most of my clients to drain their dental unit water lines before the shut-down ensued. If you weren’t able to, I highly recommend doing shock treatments at least 1 week before reopening. That gives you time to test the water lines and make sure they aren’t overgrown with biofilm. Mike shares some updates on ProEdge and the innovations they’re making to deliver faster results.
You also need to prep your autoclave and do any necessary maintenance, cleaning, and disinfecting. The CDC is making posters available that describe symptoms of the virus to post in your waiting rooms. They created another infographic for staff members that shows the symptoms staff must keep watch for. To hear more ideas and changes being recommended, keep listening!
Many practices are considering closing their doors instead of reopening. In Maryland, dentists usually finish school with over $250,000 in debt. Opening a practice costs anywhere from $500,000 to 1.2 million. New dental practices can’t sustain long-term closures. Some practices who had just opened faced months with no income and are going to be filing bankruptcy.
Dentists who’ve been in the industry for years are considering moving into DSO positions with no patient contact. Others who are close to retirement are simply retiring early. But on the flip side, there is likely some pent-up demand for dentistry. Most people haven’t been able to receive routine care and cleanings. Perhaps dentists will see an intense influx of patients that will help offset some of the time spent closed.
Whether dentists like it or not, necessary change is coming. The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting the infection control standards that are in place—and hopefully improving them. Many dentists are hesitant to make changes. Change is uncomfortable, scary, and even expensive—but imperative. Listen to the whole episode for our full discussion on the future of dentistry.