What should you expect from your next dental appointment? Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the things we are able to do are looking a little different to life before lockdown. Many are calling it the ‘new normal’. No one knows how long these measures are going to be in place for. Whether it’s just for the interim or long-term we are all going to have to get used to doing things differently.
How have we changed what we do?
By now, most of us have become used to the protocol for doing the weekly food shop… We patiently queue outside, two metres apart, working on a one out one in system. Once inside, there is a cleaning station to wipe down trolley or basket handles. We all stick to our squares and dutifully follow the one-way system to find our groceries. We only pick up what we are buying. The tills have screens to protect staff and customers. Many people are wearing masks (although they are not compulsory). It’s weird, but we feel safe and we’ve all quickly become used to this new normal, haven’t we?!
More and more businesses are being allowed to open. This means that they will be adopting similar protocols to protect employees and customers. Now that dental practices are officially allowed to open in some parts of the country, just what will your next appointment look like?
For starters, most practices will only be accepting emergency or urgent dental treatment. This means that regular dental check-ups and hygiene appointments are still off the menu. If you are in pain, have a broken tooth, etc, you should be able to get an appointment. The first thing to do is contact your dental practice. They will listen to your concerns and triage you via phone. When necessary you may be invited to do a virtual consultation using Zoom or Facetime.
How will things will look?
Have you booked an appointment? It is important to remember that things will look a little different when you arrive. It will be very similar to what you experience at the supermarket. Most practices will have emptied their waiting rooms. This is in order to minimise the number of surfaces that a virus could settle on. You will most likely be asked to wait outside until you are called in. This is a bit like being in a supermarket queue. Many dental practices will first take your temperature. They may use a special gun that can do this from 2 metres away. If it is high you will be asked to re-schedule your appointment. This protects you, the staff, and other patients.
What you should expect inside the dental clinic?
Once inside, you will be asked to use hand sanitiser or wash your hands if there is a facility available. You may also be asked to wear disposable shoe coverings, a mask, and gloves. It is advisable to only bring essentials with you, such as your wallet or purse. Many practices will want to avoid unnecessary items in the practice, especially in the surgery. If asked, leave your belongings in a secure place outside of the surgery room, along with your mask.
The dental team will tell you what to do
You will probably find that a member of staff will talk you through all of this before you enter the surgery, which is where your dentist will be waiting for you. The dental team will all be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). This will include aprons, shoe coverings, gloves, masks, and face visors. While much of this is what you will be used to, some of it will look different and a little bit more extreme. You shouldn’t be scared. Your dental team are professionals who have a deep understanding of PPE and infection control. They will all have put additional measures in place on top of their existing protocols in order to keep you and the team as safe as possible.
What else will be going on?
In between appointments, the team will carry out a full deep clean of the surgery, waiting areas and any other communal parts (such as corridors). This means that the entire site is decontaminated before every patient. While normal procedures would always consist of cleaning down the dental surgery between patients, this additional cleaning takes longer than usual. This is why you may find there are less appointments available than before.
With many dental practices starting to reopen, many patients who are in need of urgent dental care can start to receive this now. This is great news! If you are due an appointment, it is best to wait until you hear from your dental practice They will advise when they are offering these once again… leave those phone lines open for those who are in pain!