Is dental work too close contact for the COVID-19 pandemic?

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: May. 20, 2020 at 4:11 PM EDT
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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

NORTH AUGUSTA, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- There are not many places facing re-opening struggles like dental offices. It's close contact for everyone that goes in, so one local dentist is going above and beyond for his patients.

At Newell Dental in North Augusta, they're treating their office almost like the ICU. With a step-by-step cleaning process that starts at the door, and layers of screening on everyone and everywhere.

"Every patient has to have their hands disinfected, has to wear a mask," Dr. John Newell of Newell Dental said. "That's anytime they're in a chair or in the building except for when they're actually receiving treatment."

And that's not for long, considering patients must wait in their cars before their service.

Newell says dentistry has always been well-prepared to handle infections, but COVID-19 is unique.

"Before we only had to manage the blood and saliva basically, this asymptomatic carrier adds the dimension of air management," Newell said.

Their usual power tools can put potentially harmful saliva into the air. So they're doing more by hand and making people rinse for a minute with peroxide.

"If the patient coughs, then we've got to start all over again," Newell said.

To help, they installed UV leaners in the air ducts and air purifiers in the treatment area. Everything is sterilized and all staff is wearing two layers of scrubs and masks that stay here at the office, with laundry in-house.

But as all dental offices deal with the virus face to face, Dr. Newell says coming back is a choice.

"If you're concerned, just wait a little bit," Newell said. "If you have pain, find treatment before it becomes something that is way more difficult to manage."

Dr. Newell says more specialized cleaning machines are on the way that they plan to use moving forward. His goal is to be back to full-staff by June 1 with limited scheduling.

Many dental offices in the area are requiring masks for their patients at all times, except in the operating chair. Some provide that mask at the door if you don't have one, and then charge the patient because getting masks and PPE is so expensive.

Dr. Newell says his office won't be doing that until it's billable to insurance.​

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