The UC Davis Dental Clinic reopens today, with new protocols to protect patients and staff during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A New York Times story in March studied occupations that face the greatest coronavirus risk. Dentists ranked among the most at-risk professions. Dentists work in close contact in patients’ mouths and perform procedures that produce the aerosolized particles known to spread the virus. This increases the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
“The risks are incredibly high. For us to get back to work safely, I thought, ‘What is the ideal solution?’ and worked from there,” UC Davis dentist William Love said.
By leveraging the strengths of UC Davis Health, Love developed a series of protocols that are unique in the Sacramento region:
- Patients who have a scheduled aerosolized procedure (fillings, teeth polishing, crowns, oral surgery, etc.) must get a COVID-19 test 48 hours before their dental appointment and then quarantine themselves before the appointment. Test results come back within 24 hours. The test is free of charge on the UC Davis Health campus. For those who do not have access to UC Davis testing, we will work with local providers to help facilitate testing.
- All patients and staff are screened for fever when they enter the Glassrock Building lobby, with a temperature check. Patients and staff must wear a mask within the building.
- The dental clinic schedules one patient at a time. Treatment rooms are outfitted with HEPA filters, with scheduled breaks to ensure that particles from a previous patient don’t remain in the air to infect the next patient. Door coverings are placed on all treatment rooms to help contain aerosolized particles.
- Patients who get teeth cleanings can opt out of teeth polishing. Those patients do not need to be tested for the novel coronavirus since teeth scaling is not an aerosolized procedure.
- Staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including an N95 mask, face shield, gown, gloves, and hair cover and change PPE between patients. Patients are draped with a disposable gown as well.
- Patients must prepay and schedule follow-up appointments upon arrival so that they can leave immediately when appointment is over.
- Surfaces are disinfected after each patient.
- Video visits via telehealth are also an option for patients who do not require dental procedures.
“In a nutshell, this is the safest way to do dentistry,” Love said. “Safety is our No. 1 priority during this COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud of how we have tailored our services to meet the safety concerns of our patients and our team.”