In recent years, medical experts documented pathogen transmissions in the dental sector. The possible sources of infection are improper injection techniques, neglect to sterilize dental instruments in between patients, and failure to inspect autoclaves.  

With the resumption of dental practices during this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial to deliver proper oral healthcare while following the necessary protocols.  

Understand that the massive circulation of the virus in various areas, the possibility of people spreading the disease to others, and dental procedures performed in such a close manner, place dental healthcare workers at a high risk to become susceptible to the virus and transmit them to patients or co-workers. 

To avoid the spread of COVID-19, dental practices should implement new techniques that are distinct from how previous diseases were handled. Below, you’ll find several guidelines deployed by the American Dental Association (ADA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to help dental healthcare providers stay safe while working. 

Re-organize Flow of Dental Practice

The pandemic ushered in new obstacles that may prohibit the regular availability of non-emergency health services. When delivering patient care, here are a few recommendations from the ADA regarding physical precautions, protocols, and proper communication:

  • Distribute reassurance notices to clients.
  • See to it that you either supply or require everyone coming in the office to wear a face mask. To know different options when it comes to face masks, click here.
  • Develop a pre-consultation screening system via email, phone, or text to guarantee that clients with COVID-19 symptoms or those exposed to positive patients don’t visit the dentist’s clinic.
  • Include in the registration process the routine of checking a client’s body temperature. Likewise, provide sanitizing materials to clean clipboards, phones, desks, pens, light switches, keyboards, and various areas that are frequently touched.
  • Clean and sterilize examination cubicles after every patient check-up.
  • Furnish a checklist beside dental chairs to organize the station.
  • Consider setting up barriers, like plastic windows or glass, in the lobby area to restrict reception personnel and clients’ close interaction.
  • To implement physical distancing, see to it that you reduce the number of clients sitting in the waiting area.
  • Get rid of materials that you can’t routinely disinfect or sanitize, such as newspapers, toys, magazines, and other reading materials, that visitors commonly touch in the waiting area.  
  • To prevent the spread of pathogens, dental professionals and workers should only wear uniforms inside the dental office and not use them when going home or visiting other communities.
  • Impose sick leave rules that are conciliatory, non-coercive, and in accordance with the public health regulations for dental practices.
  • When an employee is sick, they shouldn’t receive sanctions if they need to stay at home.
  • Suppose a staff suspects that they acquired COVID-19. In that case, they shouldn’t proceed to work and must contact their primary healthcare provider to know if a medical assessment is advisable. 
  • Ask clients to inform your dental clinic if they show symptoms or test positive with COVID-19 after two days of dental treatment.

Adopt Triage Procedures & Tele-Dentistry 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the dental industry hasn’t embraced tele-dentistry due to the mindset that oral healthcare requires a personal consultation. However, with the rigorous protocols in place, many dentists now provide the service. 

Below are various digital strategies dental professionals can utilize to get in touch with clients:

  • Online patient monitoring: Remotely observing patients involves sending clinical data to the healthcare provider. The time of sending can be real-time or not.  
  • Synchronous: Synchronous consultation entails an online video conference or real-time phone call via a tablet, smartphone, laptop, or desktop computer. In some instances, a dental assistant can physically assess the patient while the dentist carries out an online assessment.
  • Asynchronous: On the one hand, an asynchronous consultation includes forwarding information, images, or messages to the healthcare provider, and they answer at a given time.

With regards to triage procedures, dental practices should get hold of clients before their scheduled appointment. Verify the client’s dental issue and assess whether the problem requires treatment in the clinic. If not, offer teledentistry services instead of in-clinic services. 

Enforce Source Control Policies

Healthcare experts recommend source control or the use of procedure or surgical masks while working in a health facility. It’s necessary regardless if they don’t have COVID-19 symptoms. Face covers conceal an individual’s nose and mouth to mitigate body fluids transmission when they cough, sneeze or speak.  

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Patients, companions, and other visitors must utilize their own face masks before entering the clinic and during their whole stay in the dental office. If an individual arrives without any face protection, the facility should provide one as long as their inventory allows.
  • Clients may take off their face masks inside the examination cubicle but must wear them again when leaving the treatment area.
  • Patients with breathing problems shouldn’t wear face masks. 
  • On the other hand, dental healthcare providers should wear surgical face masks while inside the dental clinic. This policy includes breakrooms and other areas that they can run into co-workers. 
  • Surgical masks are ideal face protection compared to cloth coverings for dental professionals. Generally, surgical masks shield the wearer from the dangers of hazardous substances.
  • Inform visitors, clients, and other dental healthcare personnel regarding the essence of practicing hand washing before and after touching their face mask. 
  • At the end of their work duty, dental healthcare workers should take off their surgical masks, observe hand hygiene, and wear a new face mask before leaving the office.
  • Put up posters in the lobby, waiting areas, and other tactical places to give instructions on how to wear face masks, practice proper hand hygiene, and coughing protocol.

Final Thoughts

At the moment, some dental practices can now reopen by following industry guidelines that mitigate the transmission of the virus in the workplace. However, due to the stringent policies, others who can’t cope with the requirements will have to stay closed or restrict their operations to emergency procedures only. 

Suppose workplace, organizational, and engineering regulations are still inadequate protection. Then, see to it that PPEs are available to everyone who needs it.

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