TAMPA, Fla.—With elective procedures allowed again in Florida, dentists across the Tampa Bay Area are able to get patients back in the office for routine and preventative care. When you go for a cleaning, however, be prepared to see changes.
The American Dental Association issued guidance to offices to help with the re-opening. Dentists were previously able to be open for emergency procedures during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We have to go through certain different protocols to make sure patient flow is at the utmost distance so that we can achieve our job and still treat our patients,” said Dr. Christopher Bulnes of Buckenheimer and Bulnes at the South Tampa Dental Office.
Bulnes has signs outside their office asking patients to call when they arrive and stay in the car. He says they’ve stepped up their personal protective equipment use and spaced out chairs in their waiting room to keep with social distancing guidelines.
“The whole intention is to not have a waiting room at this point, just to kind of have patients go from the car to the treatment room and exit,” said Bulnes. “There’s more strategy in the flow of patients, maybe a staggered schedule, lessening the patient interaction with each patient.”
At North Pointe Dental Associates in Tampa, they’ve implemented a screening procedure as you walk in the door. Patients will wash their hands, fill out a form, and get their temperature checked. Plexiglass separates the front desk from patients, and they’ve removed magazines in the waiting room.
When in the patient chair, high-tech equipment helps eliminate aerosols and a high volume infiltration system refreshes the air every 12 minutes.
“The high-speed evacuation system is suction. It’s high-speed suction, and it minimizes any aerosols that come out of the mouth, so really anything that goes in gets sucked out,” said Dr. Barrett Tindell.
“Some changes you might see, you might be used to walking into your cleaning appointment and having you and a hygienist there. Well you might have another personnel sitting there doing the high evacuation suction,” said Dr. Bulnes.
Dentists want patients to know they’re not only concerned for their own safety, but the patient’s safety too.
“It’s at the patient’s discretion, we’re here for them. I said a month ago in our meetings, patients are going to dictate our schedule,” said Dr. Bulnes. “If they’re comfortable, we’re going to create an environment that makes them feel comfortable and feel safe, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the patient.”