During the earliest COVID-19 restrictions, dental clinics around the country completely shut
down. As more businesses opened in the summer, dental offices were quick to follow, but only
with substantial precautions in place. Even with the latest surges in numbers, dental offices are
remaining open. At the Poulsbo Dental Clinic, we are taking steps to protect our patients and
employees during COVID-19.
To keep themselves and their staff safe during COVID-19, dentists in Poulsbo have to plan,
implement, and change their safety protocols. They have to consider how to staff their offices
each day and what to do when employees are exposed to COVID-19. Since patients wonder if
going to the dentist is safe during COVID-19, dentists have to show them how safe their offices
Dental Hygienist Responsibilities
Since COVID-19 spreads through aerosol, dental hygienists have to change the way they clean
teeth. They need to spend less time in the mouth, so their work needs to be more efficient.
While working, dentists need to reduce the amount of aerosol they create and rely on more
high-powered suction tools.
To protect themselves and their clients, dental hygienists need to work in a space that uses
technology to filter the air, especially from airborne viruses. This means that dental offices might
need to invest in environmental air decontamination systems that rely on ozone, ultraviolet, and
hydrogen peroxide technologies.
Between patients, hygienists need extra time to decontaminate surfaces and properly remove
used PPE to apply new coverings for their eyes, face, mouth, and nose.
All of the burdens for safety during COVID-19 protocols should not rest on only the dentist. The
patients need to also take precautions. For example, patients need to reschedule their
appointments if they have been recently exposed to anyone with COVID-19 before going to the
Patients should wait in their cars or outside before being admitted into the office. If possible,
patients should request telehealth services to avoid exposure during COVID-19. Patients should
practice good oral hygiene between appointments by brushing and flossing as instructed.
Changes to Dental Appointments
Patients and staff will notice continual changes to dental practices. Many of the changes will be
in staffing, safety protocols, and technology use. Many offices already instituted PPE changes
decades ago due to other highly contagious viruses, like HIV. But due to COVID-19’s mode of
transmission, PPE protocols will intensify in dental offices.
While dental cleanings should occur every six months, dental offices might struggle to keep the
pre-COVID schedules due to staffing issues and exposure to the virus. So, patients should be
prepared for their appointment times to change.
Patients might find that hygienists spend less time using traditional dental tools and more time
using newer technology to clean their teeth. Dentist appointments might be scheduled via
telehealth services when appropriate. Waiting rooms can be closed, as patients might be asked
to remain in their cars or to wait outside until the start of their appointments.
Wait Times During the Pandemic
To maintain social distancing and to complete thorough equipment cleaning between patients
during COVID-19, dental offices may have limited appointment times. Therefore, patients might
have long wait times between office visits. Between appointments, patients should take care of their teeth with daily brushing and flossing. They should contact the dentist if they have
problems that need immediate care.