A: We’re using different equipment basically for filtering the air. We use HEPA and ionized filtration systems that circulate the air—getting what is called “surgically clean air.” We isolate our patients in our operatories so there’s not a lot of people coming back and forth. We’ve also decreased the number of people that come through the office including decreasing the staff. So, we’ve limited traffic in the office by doing this. We have also limited our usage of aerosol producing procedures, mainly through hygienical processes. So, our hygienists are hand cleaning patient’s teeth rather than using aerosol producing procedures thus reducing COVID risks.
All this along with high vacuum suction, level 2/3 masks, and just our standard safety precautions. This has allowed us to be very comfortable and confident in keeping patients safe. Your risk of COVID is very minimal coming into the office.
We understand that with COVID-19, patients have a heightened concern regarding dental office safety. Dental work, if you just look at it on the surface with what’s involved, can seem like a risky environment with this pandemic. Dental hygienists clean your teeth using water sprayers, your mouth is open most of the time—so yes there is a risk.
What Is The Risk Of COVID Transmission?
COVID spreads through droplets that spew from the mouth as we talk, cough, or breathe. Other people may incidentally inhale those droplets that are aerosolized. Or, they could touch a surface with droplets on it then rub their nose or eyes. The nasal passage is one of the most common ways a pathogen gets into your bloodstream.
Since a dentist experiences a higher level of droplet potential than most environments—some believe the risk could be greater. However,
THE RISK OF CONTRACTING COVID-19 FROM VISITING OUR DENTAL OFFICE IS VERY MINIMAL.
How can we make such a bold statement? Well, as Dr. Vela pointed out, as a dental facility, we already keep a very sterile environment. You have to in the dental field, given the type of procedures we do. Dental offices have been operating in extremely sterile environments for decades.
We’ve always kept a strict set of health safety guidelines at Vela Dental for the good of our patients and the public. These guidelines we abide by date back much further than COVID. So, when COVID information was minimal in the early stages of the pandemic.
Vela Dental Has Always Been Safe
We already kept a very sterile environment using high-end filtration systems and disinfecting practices that meet strict ISO standards. Now that more information is known about COVID and how it spreads—we go even further with our safety protocols.
We’ve installed more advanced air filtration systems using ionization technology to limit pathogens from spreading. We’ve reduced the number of patients we allow to be booked on any given day at any given time slot.
Does that impact us financially? You bet it does! However, our priority is the health of our patients, our staff, and the safety of our community. We feel it’s a loss of income that is worth the tradeoff and we will continue those practices.
Other COVID Precautions We Are Taking
Since people can spread COVID without even showing symptoms and rapid testing is still in short supply, we took action. We have gone beyond recommended capacity restrictions as well as the minimum social distancing protocols.
In addition to reducing the number of patients per day as mentioned, we have also eliminated redundant traffic to the operatories. We have put a strict limit on how many different staff can walk in on your appointment. Unless it’s inherently vital to your procedure, everything else is handled outside the OR and between barriers.
We’ve also beefed up our COVID screening procedures and only allowing patients, no companions unless it’s a minor. Our COVID screening questionnaire is a rough overview to make sure you haven’t potentially been exposed already. We’ll take your temperature when you come into the office, and provide you with a mask that you MUST wear at all times. The only time your mask may be removed is once you are in the dental chair and ready to be seen. All of our staff are wearing masks—N95 masks to be exact. We would never ask something of our patients that we wouldn’t do ourselves.
Dr. Vela is also keeping unnecessary banter to a minimum, it’s nothing personal. With less talking while your mouth is exposed, the less the risk is.
Cleaning is constant and we pride ourselves on being somewhat obsessive on the cleanliness of our facility. It was this way before COVID and has only gotten more intense after. You can’t deny that our offices are incredibly pristine.
Have Procedures Changed During This Pandemic?
We’ve also reduced our staff and changed the way they do things to even further prevent COVID transmission. Our hygienists now hand clean your teeth and are decked out in full PPE gear as well. This reduces aerosol transmissions of saliva as well as your own exposure to outside bacteria.
That practice is also in place for surgical procedures too—we don’t use any aerosol-producing equipment. When your mouth needs to be cleaned out during surgery, it’s done by hand with special tools. No irrigator, no air blasts. Please, be patient with us, as it does take a bit more time for procedures due to this change.
We’ve also extended our operatory turnover time to allow any aerosol droplets to dissipate and to thoroughly sterilize the area. Honestly, the extra sterilization may not be necessary—however, we’d rather double down on efforts. Better to be overly cautious than not cautious enough—that concept has kept this office COVID free.
Keep in mind, COVID isn’t the first pandemic to change the procedures in dentistry. Many of the precautions we take today such as gloves and masks are a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic discovered in the early ’80s. We’ve seemed to have grown accustomed to those measures, and in reality, it has made us safer overall.
Should I Avoid The Dentist If It’s Not An Emergency?
Many of our patients have called in asking us if they should avoid coming in for this or that if it’s not an emergency. Our answer is an emphatic, NO—with a few realistic exceptions.
When you delay your oral care, you post not only a threat to your oral health but your overall health as well. Non-critical conditions such as a broken filling can escalate quickly if ignored, however, even a routine cleaning is vital to your health. For example, look at the proven connection between diabetes and gum health. Additionally, heart disease has a direct connection with gum health as well. Those routine cleanings, as mundane as they may sound—can add years to your life.
Keep in mind, that with people working at home more, a healthy diet tends to take a backseat to convenience and overindulgence. We’re not talking about overindulgence of sprouts and broccoli—we’re talking Doritos, Ben & Jerry’s. Let’s not forget about holiday candies and those addictive danish shortbread tins. Add enamel eroding caffeinated drinks to the mix, and you have a recipe for a really nasty oral microbiome. Yes, we said it—people’s mouths are looking plain dirty.
Think about it though, without having to be out in public all day, it’s easy to let some self-care routines go by the wayside. We pack on a few pounds, slack on brushing and flossing, exercise less because gyms may be closed. That’s why at least taking care of your teeth is especially important and why we are open, because:
—DENTAL CARE IS ESSENTIAL FOR OVERALL GOOD HEALTH—
You can’t have good overall health if your dental care is lacking. Poor oral health compromises your entire body—it’s that simple.
Now, we understand there are some patients that due to underlying conditions, are at a greater risk of contracting COVID. With cases rising in Corpus, some of these patients have valid concerns about going out if not critical.
Even though the chance of contracting COVID here at Vela Dental is minimal, for at-risk patients—it’s the drive here that’s risky. Getting out in public, pumping gas, etc…all of the things you may encounter to get here increases your risk.
We completely understand, therefore, delaying routine cleanings for a few weeks is okay all things considered. That gives time for the new COVID vaccine to be distributed more widely and flatten the curve. However, we wouldn’t advise putting cleanings off for more than 60 days—a lot can develop in that time.
Be Safe, But Be Vigilant About Your Dental Care
We understand the need to be safe and sensible about COVID and if you are in otherwise good health—maintain your dental care. Now more than ever, your oral health could be the lynchpin that makes you more susceptible to COVID if not maintained.
Contact us today to learn more about our safety protocols and to schedule your appointment.