Adding enhanced safety features and social distancing practices to daily operations has enabled one Cheyenne Mountain-area dental practice to reopen for routine appointments following closure during the “stay-at-home” mandates of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many dental- and medical care providers, Word of Mouth Dentistry has taken additional precautions in order to provide safe care for patients in need.
But Benjamin Donn, DDS — the man at the helm of the 202 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd. facility — shares how the practice has gone above and beyond to ensure staff and patient safety.
New protective additions to the practice range from screening visitors for fever to emailing documents for signature. Each is designed to enhance staff-patient protection without sacrificing quality dental care, said “Doc Donn.”
Patient needs, staff requests to return to work and authorization from the American Dental Association and Centers for Disease Control figured in the decision to once again see patients, he said.
To reduce the transmission of viral particles and limit physical contact, the practice emails or texts documents requiring signature to patients. Upon arriving for appointment, patients are asked to stay in their vehicles until staff conducts temperature screening. Visitors who have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher are not allowed inside the facility.
Next, the staff discusses COVID-19 exposure consents and personal protective equipment procedures with patients. All are required to wear a mask while in the building except when undergoing treatment. Plastic sneeze shields line the front desk to protect staff from possible viral particles.
Additional precautions the practice has taken include installing high-efficiency particular air-filtered purifiers in each room. Patients are asked to wash their hands or apply a hand sanitizer containing at least 70% isopropyl alcohol.
Patients also are asked to swish with a 1% hydrogen peroxide rinse prior to treatment, proven effective in inhibiting bacterial and viral load in the oral cavity.
To enhance staff-patient protection, staffers wear CDC-recommended personal protective equipment comprised of surgical caps, replaceable lab jackets/gowns, fluid barrier-contained N95 masks, face shields, eye protection and fluid-resistant booties. All PPE is washed or discarded after use to prevent any cross contamination.
“Staff is also asked to leave clothing that may be contaminated. We have an in-office washing machine and dryer that makes this applicable,” Donn said.
Word of Mouth Family Dentistry set up a negative pressure room to prevent the spread of contagious illnesses. Air is pumped out of the treatment area, creating a negatively pressured space. “For example, when a door is opened into that space from, say, the lobby, the air rushes in, instead of out,” Donn said.
Air that is pumped out of the affected space passes through a series of three filters, ending with a HEPA filter which gives the same degree of filtration as an N95 mask.
No ultrasonic instruments — which could create an aerosol — are used during cleaning, Donn said. “Our operatory, in which aerosols may be produced, is equipped with a negative pressure design to establish a clearing of air 33 times an hour, less than every two minutes, and is sealed so no aerosols can escape to the rest of the office protecting the staff and patients,” Donn said.
Tyler Boss, DDS, who runs the SoCo Endo (Southern Colorado Endodontics) practice in the Cheyenne Mountain-area, created the design for his office and helped Word of Mouth Family Dentistry create their own version, Donn said.
“We are one of two dentists in the city — as far as I know — that have a negative pressure room that clears the aerosols that are produced once every two minutes, and there is zero exposure to outside of the room due to a zip-able plastic barrier.”
Patients are scheduled in the treatment room for the next appointments to help prevent additional contact with surfaces, staff or visitors. “This all seems very sterile and impersonal, but in fact, we provide a warm, caring, calm and welcoming atmosphere,” Donn said.
All staff members at Donn’s practice have returned to work despite a lighter workload. Word of Mouth Family Dentisry spaces patients further apart to give staffers ample time to disinfect and ensure all systems function flawlessly. “Everyone is working full- or overtime to get back patients who requested to be seen as soon as we opened again,” Donn said.
Donn said he’s appreciative of clients’ patience and understanding during the pandemic.
“I want people to feel safe, like they are coming to a friend’s house. I want the office to be somewhere I would feel comfortable coming to. All patients require their ‘own’ treatment, not an assembly line approach,” Donn said.
“I believe we as a society are more compassionate in states of emergency, and the understanding from all this is to respect others’ space and health. Know it we are taking this seriously and are going far beyond the standards to make sure you feel psychologically and physically safe.”