Many people have put off going to the dentist due to concerns about catching COVID-19, but now, some dental offices have re-opened.
Some dentists are back in business, even for elective procedures, but since most people put off dental work during the pandemic shut down, many offices now have a waiting list.
Dr. Steven Kupferman is an oral surgeon whose Century City office stayed open for emergencies during the shut down.
“Initially it was really bad. People had real bad pain. They broke a tooth, had an infection,” Kupferman said.
Kupferman says dental procedures can be risky because power tools used in the mouth aerosolize droplets, which could spread COVID-19 if the patient is infected.
“We have patients who have major surgery. These patients are being tested not by us but by their primary care doctors ahead of surgery,” Kupferman said.
The next time you visit your dentist, you may notice some changes, starting in the waiting room.
Patients are kept six feet apart and plexiglass separates them from receptionists.
Hospital grade ultraviolet lights may be used to sterilize patient rooms and special air filters are in place to further reduce the risk of aerosolized droplets.
Today the California Dental Association distributed 25,000 personal protective equipment kits to dentists throughout the state from California’s pandemic response stockpile.
Kupferman’s staff has been using P100 respirator masks, which can be reused with replaceable filters. The extra protective gear will come in handy now that patients are returning.
“We spent hours and hours of time trying to locate proper PPE and it took a lot of effort,” Kupferman said.
If you’re unsure about whether it’s safe to visit your dentist, call ahead to see what safety protocols are in place and whether the procedure you want should be done right away.
“It’s important to contact the dentist and see if you can wait and allow the dentist to take care of the more urgent things right away,” Kupferman said.