Increase cleaning and disinfection to protect their patients and themselves from the pandemic
Almost at the same time that all the businesses in California were ordered closed due to the coronavirus, in mid-March, Michael López fell ill with a tooth that caused swelling and much pain.
“It started me on a Sunday. On Monday I still went to work, but on Tuesday I had to be absent because I couldn't stand the pain anymore. It was on Wednesday that I was able to speak on the phone with a dentist who prescribed antibiotics and other medications, ”he says.
Michael recovered from the toothache but it is time that he cannot see the dentist. "I already feel good, and I have not insisted on going to the office for fear of contracting the coronavirus"
During the COVID-19 emergency, enacted since mid-March in California, it was recommended to postpone non-urgent dental care, and to leave the cleaning of teeth, non-painful caries treatments, whitening, revision of brakes for later and cosmetic services.
Dentist Jessica Lizana, who has her office in Northridge, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, said they closed March 17 for regular care, and only worked for emergencies related to pain and infection conditions.
“There was fear of being infected and falling ill due to little knowledge of this virus, but we are a healthcare provider and we are in the same boat to save lives. So we attended dental emergencies so that they did not have to go to a hospital, "he says.
It was not until the last week of May when he reopened his dental office for regular service, giving priority to patients with greater problems.
“We have increased the security protocol. When a patient arrives, they have to fill out a questionnaire asking if they have had exposure to the coronavirus and if they have left the country"
But they also take the temperature, you must enter the office with a mask and wash your hands when you see the dentist.
"Before we start working on your mouth, you have to do a peroxide rinse."
The dentist says that all staff wear very different attire than they used to before the pandemic. They wear an N95 mask that meets the standards of the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (NIOSH).
But on top of that mask, they wear a protective plastic shield. "We cover our heads with a hat and wear waterproof boots, gloves and a surgical gown."
With all that equipment, she says she feels pretty safe. And if this were not enough, he explains that the entire office is disinfected before and after each patient. “Everything has plastic barriers that are removed with each patient. We are doing what is humanly possible to minimize the risks of contracting the coronavirus ”.
They are also taking great care to exercise social distance between patients and their own staff. “We have only two patients in the waiting room, which is very spacious; and we have started little by little to control everything ”.
The dentist says that she understands that there is a scare among the population to go to the dental office, but she remembers that many studies have shown that the fewer dental pathologies, the lower their risk of contagion and of acquiring other diseases.
Martha Garza, a dentist assistant, who also does dental cleanings at the Los Alamitos office in Orange County, says that this Friday was the first day they received patients.
"During the quarantine, I was working part time and we only attended emergencies," he says.
He says that the pandemic has made them dress practically like astronauts. “From before we protected ourselves a lot. Good since the 80s when HIV appeared – the Human Immunodeficiency Virus -. Now we have to be more careful because the coronavirus can be transmitted through saliva. ”
Martha says Monday, June 1, they will open the dental service for routine appointments, and she will return to work eight hours.
“In the office we are taking a lot of precautions, investigating the patient's history. Before giving them an appointment, we put them to answer a questionnaire with questions about whether they have traveled outside the country and whether they have been exposed"
Even a day before, they call them on the phone again, and repeat the interrogation.
"We tell them that if something changes with their health on the day of the appointment, notify us to reschedule them."
In the office, he explains that they keep everything clean and the staff wear masks.
"Everything has to be sterilized. We have had those measures before, we have only intensified it ”.
Martha reveals that she wears glasses and a mask, and on top of that a plastic shield that covers her face. "We put the jackets we now use in the trash after each use."
With all these protections, he does not deny that it still gives him a little nervous about the possibility of getting it, but in the end he says that exposure to COVID-19 can occur anywhere. "Just like when we go to the store, we are exposed to many people. So the best thing we can do is take care of ourselves and try to stay healthy."