‘Weird but familiar’: Back to practicing full time

It was May 8, my first day back to work full time after Florida lifted the mandatory emergency only dental order put in place mid-March.

Photo of Dr. Champion

Dr. Champion

I felt strangely nervous to be back, even though I had been rotating in for emergency services for the past six weeks. However, we only had four people in the office, and getting back into the swing of things with a full house made me a little uneasy.

What was it going to be like now that everyone was back and patients were returning for routine care? In short, it was weird, but familiar at the same time. Our team took temperatures in the morning, had a huddle about new screening and cleaning protocol, and then just went back to work as usual. What had felt like an isolated island recently was now just business as usual.

In addition to having our full staff back, we had decided over the quarantine period to start the transition fully to electronic charting and scanning in the office. The team had to learn how to get on board with that change pretty quickly, which was an additional hurdle on top of everyone getting back to action after a long absence.

It has only been a few days since we started back, but so far it feels like nothing has changed – besides the face masks everyone is now sporting. Some patients are apprehensive about being treated, but most are eager to come back and have their cleanings and treatment completed, and everyone is commenting how it feels almost post-apocalyptic but good to be going somewhere – even if that somewhere is the dentist.

It is hard to imagine the long-term effects of this pandemic for our industry, but from what I have experienced so far, I think that dentistry is one of those resilient fields that can overcome the obstacles of the times.

We as dentists are accustomed to quick thinking and finding unique solutions to unique problems, and this is one of those situations. From what I’ve experienced thus far, I believe that we will overcome it as a collective unit, because our community has been more than willing to share information, resources, clinical and financial tips, and business strategies with each other – much more so than I’d ever experienced before.

It’s been a time to share our knowledge with one another in a supportive environment, with the ultimate goal of having our profession and practices survive and adapt. As long as dentists are willing to collaborate and use our collective brain power to find solutions to the many uncertainties we are facing, we will prevail.

Hey, if we could all get through the first year of dental school, we can do anything, right? I think so, and I am proud to be a part of this profession and look forward to seeing the results of our best efforts taking care of themselves.

Dr. Katie Champion is a New Dentist Now guest bloggers. She grew up in Ohio where her mother owned a dental practice, and graduated from Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine in 2018. Katie is a general dentist in an established group practice in Deerfield Beach, Florida. She is passionate about dentistry and staying up-to-date with current dental practices, and attends multiple courses a year at the Pankey Institute for higher dental education in Key Biscayne, Florida. Outside of dentistry, she enjoys PureBarre workouts, hanging out with her husband and 3 dogs, and reading on the beach.

15 comments

  • How do you take care of the aerosol created during the procedures? Dr Miks

    • We use pink petals and reLeaf HVE in addition to incorporating rubber dams to basically almost restorative procedures.
      The extraoral suction I ordered has not arrived yet, in time, we have 3 high powered air purifiers (Air Doctor) since we don’t have any open windows in the clinic.

  • DeAnne Blazek

    Dear Katie, wonderful article! I have been thinking of you and hope to see you again soon 🙂

  • Bruce Goldman DDS

    “and then just went back to work as usual.” I wonder what you mean by “usual.” There is nothing usual about practicing dentistry any more, or at least until a vaccine, cure or so-called herd immunity. I wonder if you have read the CDC or OSHA guidelines for dentistry. How about https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/dental-settings.html.

    ” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19  places DHCP in the very high exposure risk category, as their jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of the virus that causes COVID-19 during specific procedures.

    “When practicing in the absence of Airborne Precautions, the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission during aerosol generating dental procedures cannot be eliminated. Caring for patients requiring Airborne Precautions is not possible in most dental settings as they are not designed for or equipped to provide this standard of care. For example, most dental settings do not have airborne infection isolation rooms or single-patient rooms, do not have a respiratory protection program, and do not routinely stock N95 respirators.”

    I hope you stay safe.

    • Dr. Katie Champion

      Thank you for your comments and concerns. In this practice, we do have individual patient rooms with doors that we keep closed during procedures at this time. We have also purchased Jade SCA5000C air purifiers for each operatory which turns over the air in each room in 3 minutes. All dental personnel wear N95 masks throughout the day and place level 1 masks over those whenever we enter the room with a new patient as well as utilizing face shields.
      All patients have been asked to wait in their cars until we are ready for them to be seated, and we have been taking each patient’s temperature as well as utilizing the ADA Covid Screening form for each patient before their appointment.
      Cross-contamination risk is reduced by having all operatories fully setup before appointments so that no one needs to leave the operatory until after the procedure is finished. All patients are required to wear masks in common areas, and only one patient is allowed to be checking out at one time if they need to be at the desk, otherwise we use portable credit card machines to take care of payment in the operatory as well.
      Every practice is different, but I feel that our office team has been very stringent about our sanitary guidelines and PPE as well.

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  • Does the air purifier release ozone? If so this is a problem as know people that are sensitive to it. My wife spent 3 days in intensive care due to exposure from a air purifier that produced ozone. UVC should break up ozone and I see the Jade has UVC. Have you checked this out? The price for the unit is definitely attractive.

  • Glad you expanded on your office COVID-19 protocol. Using electronic thermometer screening to determine a fever is not a reliable screening mechanism as a high percentage of people are asymptomatic and/or pre-symptomatic carriers of the coronavirus. These patients are especially infectious 5-8 days prior to showing COVID symptoms. Saliva, and aerosol/droplets contain voluminous quantities of airborne virus particles during routine use of a turbine handpiece. Are you requiring the pretesting of patients? Do you use a rubber dam, have a special high evacuation system, and head/ hair and shoe coverage as gravity causes these droplets to drop to the floor? What about eliminating the Cavitron?

  • Richard delboccio

    Amen …still considering whether to buy air filters…not totally convinced based on clinical studies…some team members can tolerate the k95 mask others are wearing level 3.mand everyone wears face shields…dental suppliers selling high tech covid aerosol containment equipment..but costing thousand of dollars…dont forget UV in AC units…geeze..unbelievable..I’m a private dentist with PPO assignments..best wishes and stay healthy

  • Great article Dr. Champion!
    In your comments above it sounds like you have patients wait in their cars. How do you communicate with them upon arrival in your parking lot?

    We recognized early on that it could be challenging for our front desk to manage those patients waiting in their cars.

    We use http://www.ParkingLotCheckIn.com to allow patients to self-check in from their cars and notify patients when we’re ready for them. Here’s their 30 second video. https://youtu.be/chDP_AFCPqM

    Good luck!

  • How do you communicate with them upon arrival in your parking lot?

  • Thanks for the article, very informative.

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