LOS ANGELES – A trip to the dentist is different in a COVID-19 world.
The pandemic is forcing dentists like Dr. Abraham Nobel, who shut down his practice in mid-March, to double down on safety measures.
What You Need To Know
- Dentists reopening for patients with issues
- All patients will have their temperature checked at the door
- There will be social distancing markers on the floor
- Front door will be wiped down hourly
“I’ve been trying to stay up to date on all the latest things with the virus itself and how it spreads and trying to see what I can do to protect my staff, myself and my patients,” said Nobel.
Dr. Nobel has been practicing dentistry for almost two decades and says because dental work has to be done close up, he already had measures in place to protect against known diseases.
“We’ve been worried about tuberculosis and hepatitis C and HIV and we’ve been taking precautions all this time,” he said.
Those safety measures include covering light handles with plastic to avoid cross-contamination and wearing PPE. But when it comes to coronavirus, he is taking safety to a whole new level, stepping it up with gowns, face shields, and N95 masks.
“If we are doing procedures that are aerosolized—meaning stuff will be spraying into the air—we need a little bit of extra protection,” he said. “So the N95s—the 95 means that it filters 95 percent of the stuff in the air, which is pretty good.”
The Centers for Disease Control says that under normal circumstances, the coronavirus can travel six feet. However, during a procedure, such as drilling, the virus can become aerosolized and travel 20 feet and linger in the air for three hours, according to dentistry experts. To help prevent particles from spreading throughout the office, Dr. Nobel has installed special air filters in each room.
“We got filters that will circulate the air for a 150-square-foot room approximately four times," he said. "We're overdoing it so we want to circulate the air in there in case something does get out...aerosolizes out into the air."
He has also made major changes to the reception area, which has the heaviest foot traffic. It used to have carpet, wallpaper, and couches.
“We ripped out the carpet. We put concrete that can be sanitized appropriately,” he said. “We removed most of the cloth chairs and we put in chairs that we could wipe down.”
Dr. Nobel also pulled out the wallpaper and painted the walls with acrylic, which he says is easier to clean thoroughly. The magazine rack is now empty to reduce patient touchpoints. He also says the front door will be wiped down every hour and pens at the front desk will be given away.
“We have, you know, new pens for them to take home with them,” he said.
Patients must also undergo temperature checks and follow social distancing markers on the floor of the office.
“We've cut down the number of patients that we're going to be seeing per hour so that we can do the social distancing,” he said. “So that, you know, people don't run into each other in the hall.”
Dr. Nobel isn’t yet seeing patients for routine maintenance, but he says he and his staff are welcoming patients having issues.
“Someone's crown fell out...something broke but again they're not in any pain...we're going to be taking care of those,” he said.
Dr. Nobel is confident everyone will be safe and plans to keep the measures in place for at least several months.