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COVID-19 Controls In the Dental Practice

College of Dentistry Dean James Ragain presenting COVID-19 information for dental care providers during Monday’s Coronavirus Online Symposium.

UTHSC College of Dentistry Dean James Ragain, DDS, presented the transmission routes of COVID-19 and controls that should be followed in dental practice at Monday’s Coronavirus Online Symposium.

The symposium brought together a variety of health care providers including physicians, nurses, and dentists, who spoke on their areas of expertise in mitagating the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Stopping all elective dental care during this time, I know it really hurts practices and your dental office, but now’s the time to stop your elective dental care,” said Dr. Ragain. “However patients still need emergency dental care, and the fewer of those patients who report to the hospital ERs, that will keep the numbers down for patients who are being seen for COVID-19.”

In recent weeks, dental practices across the state have stopped elective dental care and have shifted dental care to dental emergencies only. According to the American Dental Association, dental emergencies “are potentially life threatening and require immediate treatment to stop ongoing tissue bleeding [or to] alleviate severe pain or infection.”

Dean Ragain presented best practices for those dental providers who will continue seeing patients for dental emergencies and the new protocols in place to mitigate spread of COVID-19. He mentioned three potential routes of transmission in a dental office: airborne droplets from infected patients through coughing or sneezing; droplets and aerosols created by dental equipment such as dental drills; and contaminated surfaces.

“Almost everything we do in a dental office will produce an aerosol,” Dr. Ragain said. “The dental high-speed handpiece which the public calls our dental drills, create a lot of water, and then the particles become aerosolized and they stay in the environment for a great length of time.”

Then there is the close proximity to patients and the dental care provider.

“We create these aerosol generating procedures when we do our treatment so what can we do when we are about a foot away from the patient’s face,” he asked.

Make sure you are wearing the appropriate PPEs at all times and properly disenfecting contaiminated surfaces of the digital operatories.

Dr. Ragain said, “You should have an N95 respirator mask, eye protection, face shields, gloves and gown, surgical caps and scrubs are also recommended.”

The appropriate removal of PPE was also dicussed including the importance of not touching your face after removal of face masks and changing clothing prior to going home to reduce spreading the virus.

Patients should also be contacted prior to their emergency dental procedure so they are screened over the phone for potential respiratory illness and this screening should be discussed with medical providers, so that the appropriate faciltiy can treat the individual. Arrivals times to minimize the time patients are in waiting rooms was highlighted. Dr. Ragain said arriving too early is not recommended and it may be appropriate for patients to wait in their car until they are ready to be seen by the dental provider. Patients should also come alone and not have visitors or children present.

The College of Dentistry is open for dental emergencies Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8 am. to 12 p.m. For adults, please call 901.448.6200 or visit the Dunn Dental Building at 875 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38163.

For children, age 16 and under, please call 901.448.KIDS or visit the Pediatric Dentistry Clinic at Le Bonheur at 848 Adams Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103.

For more information visit: https://www.uthsc.edu/dentistry/covid19-notice.php

Additional guidelines for dental care providers can be found at https://www.ada.org/en