The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that dentists perform only emergency procedures and postpone elective actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Highland Lakes dental offices have adapted accordingly by screening patients, limiting procedures, and being even more vigilant than their disease-conscious profession already requires.
“I think there were a lot of people initially who were frustrated,” said Dr. JT Cowling of Highland Lakes Dental. “We’re doing this out of safety to people, and it’s unfortunate not to be able to get your regular cleaning, but in the long run we’ll all be able to get together and we’ll get those things done. In the short term you’ve got to keep everybody safe.”
Highland Lakes Dental has reduced its hours and now only sees between one and three patients a day, all emergency procedures. Their offices have six rooms, which they rotate between to ensure they are thoroughly cleaned before another patient comes in for treatment.
“This way we don’t have to wipe down a room real quick,” Cowling said. “We can make sure they get 100 percent wiped down and take our time so we don’t have to worry about any cross contamination.”
Other dental offices are taking extra care in their screening as well, taking the temperature of everyone who enters the office, patient or not.
“We already have so many protective protocols in place, but it’s not a bad practice to incorporate,” said Dr. Lane Freeman, of Nunnally, Freeman & Owens. “It’s never really something we’ve had to think about before.”
Like other dental offices, Nunnally, Freeman & Owens is still seeing patients, but on a limited, emergency-only basis.
“For the most part, we’re working with just toothaches and infections,” Freeman said. “I’ve written probably more antibiotic prescriptions in the past two weeks than I have in a long time just because we have so many more toothaches we’re dealing with.”
As with many trades during the COVID-19 pandemic, staff doesn’t have much to do. Stanley Dental is keeping its staff engaged with increased cleaning and training.
“We have a really, really great staff,” said Dr. Dickey Stanley of Stanley Dental. “They’re trained and they’re part of the family. We want to see them intact and taken care of during this time.”
Even dental offices that appear shuttered may still be taking appointments. If patients have questions, they are urged to call their dental care provider.
“We sure want patients to know that we’re here for them and we are just as frustrated as they are when we can’t do everything that we are normally accustomed to in the way we serve our patients,” Freeman said. “I’m sure I speak for all the dentists in the area — we’re all feeling that same way. We are definitely here in case you need anything or even if you have a question.”
For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, go to the DailyTrib.com coronavirus resources webpage.