Now that vaccines are readily available and large numbers of people here are vaccinated, we’ve been able to modify our procedures to something closer to a pre-Covid ‘‘normal”. For those who are not vaccinated the risks are still very much present. But for the vaccinated, the risk of infection and transmission is now quite small, the risk of serious illness practically done with. Your life can pretty much return to normal.
There are some things that will be with us for the foreseeable future.
CDC guidance still recommends masks be worn in healthcare settings. We cannot assume everyone who comes into our office is vaccinated. And as a practical matter, you don't know who is and who isn’t. Out of shared consideration and courtesy we ask that you continue to wear a mask in our office, even if you’re vaccinated (we’ll tell you when to take yours off for treatment). If you forgot to bring your own mask, we’ll provide one to you.
Sorry, there are no longer magazines, which are high touch and impossible to disinfect. We do have internet access. The network is “DentalPatients” and the password is “ThankYou”.
As the risk recedes, the increased level of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worn by our staff at the height of the pandemic is no longer necessary. Staff that wish to continue with the additional PPE are welcome to do so as a matter of individual choice. Dr. Wiener for example, because he and his family have all been vaccinated, has dispensed with the isolation gowns. He’s still wearing the PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) while treating patients because he finds it more comfortable than a mask and shield.
In response to the pandemic we put hand sanitizer dispensers and Honeywell True HEPA Air Purifier units throughout the office. True HEPA captures up to 99.97% of microscopic allergens and particles, 0.3 microns or larger from the air that passes through the filter. That’s small enough to capture viruses, including the coronavirus. We bought Extra Large Room size units that will provide 5 air changes per hour in a 465 sq. ft. room. We put those Extra Large units into treatment rooms that are only 90 sq. ft., so that continuous air changes happen even more rapidly.
The air purifiers and hand sanitizer are here to stay. It has been the mildest cold and flu season in memory. Everything we all did to avoid Covid-19 really crushed the spread of colds and flu.
A little history for context.
Our Infection Control protocols, developed in compliance with ADA, CDC and OSHA standards, were significantly overhauled in the 1980’s in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. They’re designed to prevent transmission of blood borne pathogens such as HIV and Hepatitis B, which are spread primarily via droplet splatter to mucous membranes (eyes, nose, and mouth), and by hand to mucous membrane transfer via touching of contaminated surfaces. Hepatitis was used because it’s a very tough virus to kill, unlike HIV (or coronavirus for that matter) which practically any disinfectant easily kills. You may remember a time not all that long ago, when dentists did not routinely wear gloves, you didn’t often see masks or shields worn during procedures, and plastic barrier film did not cover handles and other high touch surfaces. But we’ve all gotten so used to these precautions that now that it’s hard to imagine it was ever any other way.
The Blood Borne Standard (OSHA) and Universal Precautions (CDC) worked spectacularly well. We have 35+ years of data that show that people do not get HIV from going to their dentist. And dentists do not get Hepatitis B at higher rates than the general public (prior to 1980’s dentists had 5X higher rates of Hep B).
Covid-19, caused by a new (novel) corona virus: SARS-CoV-2 poses a new threat.
This new pathogen is highly transmissible, able to be transmitted by breathing the same air. Additional precautions were added to keep everybody safe. As the level of risk changes some will stay while some have already gone.