Since mid-March, dentistry workforce was restricted to only providing emergency dental care to help slow the spread of Covid19. Most dental clinics and offices are now opening to provide full oral health services to their patients. Many are returning to business with new recommended guidelines, which are constantly revolving. This everchanging process is indeed a roller coaster because the virus is new, and research is revealing new information daily. I promise I was attending weekly webinars and each week a new discovery concerning the virus was revealed. I’ll be returning to the dental operatory soon, and I’m currently wrapping my head around the guidelines and standards dental health professionals are advised to adhere to for not only our safety but for the safety of the patients that trust us as experts in dentistry.
As you prepare to arrive for your next scheduled dental visit, be aware that there may be new and unfamiliar steps your dental health professional may be taking. Please make sure to ask any questions regarding concerns you may have about these new steps being taken. I welcome the thoughts and opinions of my patients, and I aim to answer all questions regarding their time spent with me in the clinic and any questions that will improve their understanding of the dental healthcare work environment. I am sure your dental provider would gladly answer any questions you may have too.
Of course, watching and reading news reports about how risky my job as a dental hygienist really stopped me in my tracks. Seeing the graphics and numbers as it pertains to my risk of exposure and encountering the virus caused a reaction that I have not ever experienced.
Yes, I knew these risks prior to the pandemic, but to hear it reported, fear of the unknown struck hard. Because I believe in science, I went back to basics to reassure myself that yes, my professional expertise is not considered “essential” now, but I know what I do is essential for overall health. I am a trained professional whose knowledge concerning infection control is up to date because I follow the Standards for Clinical Hygiene Practice. This standard state that dental hygienists “follow the most current guidelines to reduce the risks of health-care-associated infections in patients and illnesses and injuries in health care personnel.” I know how to study the research and apply science-based information to my clinical practice whether it be hygiene services or infection control. So, basically, I remembered that I practice what I preach!
Just because I am back to knowing who I am and whose I am does no takeaway from the fact that some of these recommended guidelines are a lot especially when compared to what I did prior to the pandemic. I am the type of person that would rather read the entire manual as opposed to the highlight’s version. In doing that, you encounter a ton of information and unknown terms. So of course, Google search saves the day in helping me understand the jargon. So just imagine a whole lot of “I know you lying!” and “You have got to be kidding me!” or “You want me to wear what?” going on during my search to gain some perspective on the personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines. After reading through everything, I think the only new PPE for me, when I return to the clinic, will be the type of mask (N95 or higher) I wear and the face shield (I have one it just didn’t fit well).
As I become more conscious of how I treat mother earth, I am working to reduce the amount of waste I produce.
The guidelines state to change PPE between patients; therefore, I am opting to wear reusable mask covers, scrub caps, and gown when I am working. I think I will save some money and the earth by using these reusable items. I am still working it out in my head, but right now I think I have a solid plan. The mask cover will be used to prevent my surgical mask or N95 respirator from getting soiled. There is currently a shortage of PPE supplies available, so we are being asked to extend the use of some of the PPE. I am not too sure about this recommendation, but I will see how things go once I am actively practicing dental hygiene. I will not be wearing the disposable shoe covers because I have designated clinic shoes.
So, when you and I return to the dental clinic, remember that it is hot under this stuff aka it will be cold in the building so dress accordingly. This includes my lovely coworkers who stay cold. Umm, wear layers!!! Yes, I do have to wear all of this for both of our safety because we do not know what is floating in this air. Yes, we do not know everything about Covid19, but I would rather be safe than sorry.
What will you be wearing the next time you go to the dentist office for your dental hygiene visit? I will likely be somewhere under all this stuff!
Regarding COVID19, adhere to guidelines put forth by your Local/State mandating boards and public health organizations!