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Dental Visits in the time of COVID-19- An interview with Dr. Rachna Minocha and Dr. Rick McKenney

On August 14th, the WHO deemed oral healthcare as “essential [in] maintaining good overall health and necessary for the early detection, prevention, and control of oral diseases.” However, visits to the dentist are often associated with fear and COVID-19 is yet another reason to avoid the dentist.

This week, we were fortunate enough to interview Dr. Rachna Minocha and Dr Rick McKenney. They will provide an overview of the procedures taken to ensure patients a safe visit to the dentist. Here are the responses to the questions addressed during the interview.

Dr. Rachna Minocha and Dr. Rick Mckenney run a family dentistry in Amherst, Nova Scotia. Learn more about their practice at http://amherstdental.ca

1. What impacts has Covid-19 had on your practice? Are you regulating your practice as you normally would, are you implementing teledentistry? 

COVID-19 has impacted our practice in many different ways. We have had to restrict the number of people entering the office and conduct several screening precautions to ensure the safety of not only our patients but also our staff. We are limited to the number of patients we are able to see throughout the day to ensure social distancing and necessary time to sterilize each room. In saying that, we are fortunate that our office can accommodate patients and still respect social distancing regulations. Financially, it has been a significant loss to the office and we were unable to see any patients due to regulations set by Public Health for over 4 months. A dental office has significant expenses that need to be paid and with no income, we are forced to use savings and line of credits to ensure we can still operate when we reopen. 

The practice of teledentistry was used only when we were unable to see patients. It is more feasible to see patients and to do a procedure rather than discuss the procedure over the phone. We are no longer doing teledentistry in the traditional manner. COVID-19 screening is done over the phone and no one is permitted in the office prior to screening.

2. What are the safety measures being taken at your office? 

The most important safety measure we have implemented is screening. Screening is essentially asking questions about signs and symptoms of Covid -19 plus if they have been exposed or been in contact with anyone that has had Covid 19.  A list of questions has been provided by our Dental Association that we ask every patient pre-appointment. We screen our staff every day and our patients when their appointment is made, the day before and when the patient enters the office.

By knowing the physical state of our patients, we can be confident when treating them to ensure the safety of everyone. If anyone has any signs/symptoms of COVID-19, exposed to anyone with COVID-19, has recently travelled in an area with an outbreak of COVID-19; they are not permitted to have dental treatment. If they have an emergent need and still have said yes to any of these questions, then there are specific clinics that are equipped to deal with the risk (hospital situation) and we are able to refer that patient. Beyond that, our office has always had universal infection control protocols in the past but in addition, we disinfect all touched surfaces, patients rinse with a diluted solution of peroxide, and all patients must wear masks upon entering and chairside protocols have increased with the implementation of shields.

3. How many people are allowed in your office at a time? 

The number of patients in our office at one time varies. We have 3 dentists and 2 hygienists. We stagger our appointments so that patients can still practice social distancing at the front desk and [upon] entering and leaving the office. We can accommodate 7 people in the waiting room. In saying this, we limit the numbers to those that are being treated only. 

4. What do you think will be the new normal in dentistry? 

The protocols we are following by our association will be the established protocols we will use from this day moving forward. Even with a vaccine, my thoughts are that we shall always practice our new regulations to ensure the safety of our patients and staff from other prospective infections.

5. What has been the biggest challenge in operating your practice during this time?

Our biggest challenge is obtaining essential equipment and materials, such as PPE’s (Personal Protective Equipment), at a reasonable price. With COVID-19, many organizations require PPE’s so the demand is significant and supply is not present. Prices have significantly increased, even if we do get the opportunity to purchase these products. Additionally, surgical masks and gloves are a major issue. I feel that the general public should not be wearing surgical masks in public, only cloth or non-medical masks. We, in the medical profession, require these masks and gloves; they are rationed by our dental/medical supply companies and if and when a second wave comes we will be forced to shut down if we do not have sufficient supplies. It is a daily challenge to acquire supplies at a reasonable price.  

6. What has been your biggest success?

On a personal note, COVID-19 has shown us to slow down and appreciate everything around us. Life is precious and we should treasure the world we live in. COVID-19 shutdown our livelihood for almost 4 months and within those 4 months, we were able to spend time with our families and enjoy quality time with them. This may not be a success but personally, it was a positive for our family during these unprecedented times.  I must say that it is a positive for us personally. 

A big thank you goes out to Machna and Rick for taking the time to answer our questions. It is so interesting to learn how businesses are adapting to the current pandemic.

Article Author : Michelle Xiao

Article Editor : Edie Whittington