Dental Care in the Time of COVID-19


It certainly is a trying time for many Americans in the wake of COVID-19. New procedures for entering businesses, wearing masks, and social distancing have all become commonplace measures used to try to limit the spread and keep us all safe. How are dental offices adapting and handling the new safety protocols? Our practice reopening has been slightly challenging but is working very well. Both new and returning patients are really appreciating the updates and added safety measures. In fact, as long as proper safety protocols are in place, it is actually a very safe time to visit your dentist.

Some of the new features we are providing our patients, and you may also see in a dental office near you include utilizing HEPA and UV air purifiers in treatment rooms and throughout the office. Many of these can turn and filter the air at least three times per hour. Hand-sanitizing or washing on arrival by every patient, every single time, in addition to the dental team’s normal hand-washing routines, help keep germs away. Pre-procedure rinses to reduce oral bacteria and room-fogging (with an all-natural, chemical-free, non-toxic, odorless, harmless solution of salt and water), face masks and hair coverings for clinical team members, including the administrative team, all support a healthy environment. It might be hard to recognize the office personnel you have come to know under all that new protective gear!

Masks and temperature: Requirements include wearing a mask to the office and inside of buildings if your dental office is located inside of an office building. Many dentists can provide a disposable mask to you if you forget to bring one from home. Due to the added personal protective equipment, most dental office temperatures have decreased leaving them colder than normal. No matter the temperature outside, you may want to bring a little something to keep you warm and comfortable or ask about office temperature. 

Pre-appointment procedures: Text and email confirmations are safest right now and offer a great solution to provide contactless options for payments and appointment scheduling when available. Be sure to tell the office if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting COVID-19 test results. Also be sure to inform your dentist about any out of state travel. This helps keep you, other patients, and the team members well-informed and able to provide you the best care possible. Make sure you know what to expect on the day of your appointment to avoid any surprises. Update personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses so that your dental care provider can reach you in advance of your appointment.

Appointments: Many offices are using a virtual waiting room or limiting the number of patients in their physical waiting rooms. New measures like calling or texting on arrival are helping to facilitate this process. Temperature screenings and COVID-19 questionnaires are being provided to keep patients safe. Offices have installed sneeze-guards to protect their administrative teams and patients from direct contact. Keeping your mask on in all office areas until your dentist or dental hygienist is ready to serve you is a great idea. An opportunity to wash your hands, handle any payment necessary and/or schedule a follow up appointment, prior to treatment will allow faster checkout times at the end of your dental visit. Dental team members will hold the doors for you when possible to limit your contact. 

Due to the nature of dental and periodontal conditions, eliminating and/or delaying dental care for patients including high-risk patients is not a reality. Any patient who is aged 65 and over, has asthma, diabetes, lung disease, kidney disease, heart disease, blood disorders, obesity, or any other underlying health factors, would benefit from a discussion with your dental care provider about the best timing for treatments and dental cleanings. 

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Dr. Karl Smith
Dr. Karl Smith has been in dental practice for over thirty-four years. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1981 and immediately entered General Practice in the US Air Force Dental Corps. He successfully completed three additional years of advanced education in the specialty of Periodontics with additional training in IV Sedation and Dental Implants in 1992, at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio and Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center. He won the John Pritchard Prize for outstanding research which included looking for a vaccine against bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Dr. Smith completed a Master of Business Administration degree with a Certificate in Health Services Management while working full time as a Periodontist. In his free time Dr. Smith enjoys traveling nationally and internationally. He is an expert skier and enjoys playing other sports including tennis. Family time with his five children and many grandchildren is also very important to him. Dr. Smith's team describes him as a dentist with superpowers! They know that when he speaks with his patients, he does so with a great deal of care and concern, and because he has a genuine desire to improve their lives and smiles! Dr. Smith is a member of many dental organizations including the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Periodontology.