How Delaware Dentists are Adapting to New Safety Protocols

By Katie Tabeling. Photo by Adobe Stock

Local dentists and orthodontists are now permitted to resume elective and non-urgent procedures. Here’s what to expect at your next appointment.

Under revised Delaware State Dental Society (DSDS) guidelines issued May 20 in collaboration with the Division of Public Health, Delaware dentists are now permitted to resume elective and non-urgent procedures and appointments, provided all mandated health measures are in place. Previously, all but emergency appointments (persistent bleeding, oral infections, a fracture) were postponed in accordance with the governor’s essential-business mandate and DSDS advisements.

Patients can expect to be screened for COVID pre-appointment (with a temperature reading), while staff are required to wear masks and limit person-to-person contact. Dentists will also space out appointments to allow time to disinfect surfaces between them.

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Since Dr. Michael Gioffre Jr. of First State Dental went from seeing 40 patients a day to one emergency procedure per week, his office had to furlough most of its staff before a federal loan made it possible to bring them back.  

“Professionally, we’ve been trained to do what’s necessary, whether that’s tripling [personal protective equipment] or [allowing] time to de-gown and sanitize,” he says. Gioffre has added a N95 mask and face shield to the scrubs her normally wears during appointments.

“We’re resilient, and we’ll get back to it. Just at a slower pace.” —Dr. Ali Husain, Delaware Orthodontics

Dentists already follow standard precautions for infection control, like sterilizing instruments and disinfecting the rooms. Wearing a N95 mask opposed to the standard surgical mask is an added precaution to prevent transmission, Harris explains.

Dr. Ali Husain of Delaware Orthodontics is also working to get his office ready for social distancing standards, with such measures as removing the patient login computer and half the seating in the waiting room.

“You’d be surprised at how many touch surfaces there are,” Husain says.

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When he reopens, Husain expects to see a surge in patients eager to get their braces removed. To meet demands and new practice standards, Husain will extend office hours.

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Doors will remain open (literally) for contact-free entry and exit. Since Husain’s patients are mostly children, he’s preparing to have staff walk young patients from cars to the office and back again while their parents remain in the car to limit occupancy.

While the path forward is challenging, Husain says he is confident that the dental community can rise to meet it.

“We’re so used to that face-to-face connection with people, but what we’re going through will not make it less personal,” Husain says. “We’re resilient, and we’ll get back to it. Just at a slower pace.”

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Published as “Smiling Through Strife” in the June 2020 issue of Delaware Today magazine.

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