Sars Covid-19 or Coronavirus has completely changed all of our lives since the outbreak late in 2019 which has progressed to the most serious pandemic in living memory.
The Virus is spread via tiny droplets (or aerosols) which are released when an infected individual coughs. They can either be directly inhaled or can settle on a surface which is later touched by another individual. This is why mask wearing and hand washing are the most important public health measures at this time. Longer term mass vaccination will reduce the number of susceptible hosts and the virus will run out of new individuals to infect. Until then we must all remain vigilant to protect ourselves and others.
Covid in the dental setting
Dental practices like any indoor spaces can be sites of spread of the virus. Due to the up-close nature of our treatments and the aerosols that can be produced by coolant sprays, additional measures have been put in place to mitigate the risk of viral spread in the clinical part of the practice. The standard we are working to is to assume that all staff and patients could be infectious and mitigating to that level of risk.
Dental practices were already amongst the cleanest environments anywhere so although we have adapted our processes, we haven’t had to make huge changes.
Fluid resistant masks are being worn in all areas of the practice at all times (including patients except during treatment). You may notice that we are wearing aprons and visors for procedures where there is no water spray such as check-ups.
For Aerosol producing procedures (AGPs) we are using an even higher standard of PPE. Both dentists and nurses are wearing respirators with P3 filters (the highest standard) these take several different forms with some being face fitted and some being powered with either a helmet or hood. These may appear extreme but we have to be as safe as possible. We are also wearing full sleeved gowns which are changed between each patient.
Changes within the practice
We have altered reception with sneeze screens to protect both staff and patients and are limiting the hallway and waiting room to one patient at a time in order to prevent close contact. Social distancing is maintained in all non-clinical patient areas. Hand sanitiser use is mandatory on both entry and exit. Patients will be screened by phone before their appointment and again on entry to the practice with a questionnaire to be completed and a temperature check. You can see the entry protocol on our youtube channel.
We have iincreased the time with each patient and between patients to prevent crowding in the hallway and to give extra cleaning time.
Within the surgeries we have an enhanced cleaning protocol and have installed powerful extractor fans which give a constant air flow, replacing the air within the surgery every few minutes. This allows us to see as many people as we can whilst still ensuring the safety of staff and patients.
We are able to provide the full range of treatments for both NHS and independant patients. Priority is given to patients with problems, especially pain.
Cosmetic procedures such as tooth whitening and facial aesthetics must be postponed during phase 4 restrictions.