The 2020 Life

As we near the end of this year, we’re continuing to live in ways we never imagined last fall. In talking with people about their challenges and disappointments, many have found silver linings in the changes that this year has brought to their lives. While we wish for the day life returns to ‘normal,’ I find it helpful to focus on the bright spots. Working at home has given many people greater flexibility in their day and they will continue to do so even after it’s deemed safe to return to an office environment. Parents have been able to spend more time with their children. We certainly don’t take many things for granted that we had before.

While dental offices across the country closed except for providing emergency services for several weeks to months last spring, we’ve adapted and are providing regular care again in a safe manner. Dentistry has long advocated for regular and preventive care as one of the foundations of good health. Delays in addressing routine needs often leads to disease progression, more expense in repairing damage and worse health outcomes.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control estimates that of the 300,000 ‘excess’ deaths that have occurred this year so far compared to 2019, 2/3 of them are due to COVID and nearly 1/3 are due to other non-COVID conditions. Why are more Americans dying of non-COVID reasons this year? Delays in diagnosis and treatment of other health conditions. While some delays in receiving care were due to health care facilities being closed to state orders and the challenges they face, other delays have been self-imposed by patients who have put off routine tests and care.

A patient recently shared with me that she was diagnosed in June with Stage 2 breast cancer that was detected on her routine mammogram. Although she had considered putting off her annual visit, she was thankful that she was able to receive an early diagnosis, conservative treatment, an easy recovery and good future prognosis. Had she waited another year, her situation may have not been nearly as favorable.

Good oral health has long been tied to good overall health. Maintaining or improving our general health is one of the best defenses against COVID. Dental care is essential health care.

So, what are we doing to help ensure the safety of our patients and team members? We’ve changed our reception area and patient flow and staggered appointment times to keep people a safe distance from each other. We ask family members waiting for patients to do so in their vehicle. Our front desk has plastic barriers and patients are screened for signs or symptoms of any illness prior to appointments. High-touch surfaces such as countertops, door handles and furniture are disinfected regularly. As indoor air quality has been identified as a concern in the spread of COVID, we installed iWave ionic air cleaners in our central ventilation system. We ask all patients to use an anti-microbial mouth rinse prior to appointments to decrease airborne microbes and use high-volume evacuation (suction) during appointments where water spray is generated.

As always, all treatment rooms are disinfected between patients with hospital-grade, EPA-approved products. Disposable barriers and/or disinfectant fog and mist are used to clean difficult-to-clean surfaces. Each treatment room sits for at least thirty minutes between patients to allow any droplets and aerosols present in the air to settle to the ground. Our instruments are sterilized or disposable. All of our team members are masked for the entire day. As more is learned about how COVID and other diseases are spread, we’ll continue to adapt our practices. 

Certainly we have and will continue to have challenges. The increased demand for masks and gloves by many industries has increased the costs and strained the availability of these items to the health care industry. Like many businesses, everything takes a little longer due to all the precautions necessary. We are thankful that so many of our patients continue to recognize the importance of oral health and trust us to be their partner. We appreciate all of you!

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