I hear much discussion among my peers about whether we’re still following COVID-19 precautions in our dental practices. It’s a never-ending debate. So, let me make one thing clear: this is not over yet!
The news changes just as much now as it did at the beginning of the pandemic. Keeping up with all of the information can give me a headache. We’ve seen COVID-19 vaccines become more available. Case numbers are going down and restrictions are being lifted, however, it’s still too early to let our guards down.
Some offices stopped accepting temps, among other COVID-19 precautions that we were advised to follow last summer. But if we become complacent, we lose sight of why we had to put those precautions in place in the first place.
I want to get back to normal as much as the next person, and when that finally does happen, I never, ever, want to go through this again. That’s why it’s important to keep doing everything we can right now.
Other hot topics
Another hot debate is temperature checks. Dr. Anthony Fauci says that these checks can be “notoriously inaccurate,” especially during the summer months. However, pre-COVID, people often kept their dental appointments even when they were sick. I don’t care if it’s COVID-19, the flu, or strep; I don’t want to catch it! So, we still take temperatures in our office. If a patient presents with a temperature, they are sent home.
We all know that simply asking patients the medical history questions is not enough. I’ve heard several stories about people who answer everything correctly, then on the way out the door mention that they’re waiting for results of their COVID test. Insert eye roll here!
States such as New Jersey and New York are seeing numbers as high as 7,000 new cases a day, while Rhode Island is experiencing about 300 new cases a day. Much of the country has far fewer cases daily, so we’re on the mend, but we need to keep it that way.(1)
Other states such as Texas and Maryland are lifting restrictions and returning to “normal.” People are ready, and I couldn’t be happier. However, that doesn’t mean we should drop all precautions for patients in our offices. Public perception is huge, and some patients are just more comfortable knowing that we’re doing all we can to make their visits safe.
I feel that dental professionals have always worked in very safe environments, and I never understood why we were considered nonessential a year ago. Our personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants work. One year later, we still have not seen a cluster of outbreaks in dental practices. However, with all of the negative press dentistry received at the beginning, patients became more aware, and some were frightened. Safety precautions are not just for us; they’re for our patients. They look to us to keep them safe.
I do long for the day when we don’t have to wear masks in public and we can gather with family and friends again. But let’s take it slow and continue to observe anything that makes our patients feel better about coming into our offices.
What sets you apart? It’s the care and concern that you give to each person who walks through your door. Your patients appreciate that.
1. How severe is your state’s coronavirus outbreak? NPR. Updated March 18, 2021. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/09/01/816707182/map-tracking-the-spread-of-the-coronavirus-in-the-u-s
Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, CDSO, CDSH, MADAA, is a member and current vice president of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master. Tija is the editor of Dental Assisting Digest and contributes to Dental Economics magazine. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, a dental assisting and dental continuing education program, and an international speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states. To read more of her editorials, visit DentistryIQ and search "Tija Hunter."