The “new normal,” as we’ve taken to calling it, has changed the way that multitudes of people are doing work.
Those with non-essential office jobs have found themselves working from the comfort of their own home. They’ve become fluent in Zoom meetings and online chat functions.
Not to downplay their struggle, but these individuals have much less to worry about than other professionals ‒ particularly those of us in the dental profession, who are in the very-high-risk category for aerosol production due to drilling and cleaning processes.
Although teledentistry has come a long way, there's no way to clean your patients' teeth, perform fillings, or give someone a root canal without being in the same room.
This presents you and your staff with a distinct challenge. Yes, you follow detailed safety protocols and put your best foot forward...but unfortunately, there’s always the potential for danger, despite your eternal vigilance.
Which brings us to another issue: testing for COVID-19 in the dental practice.
When someone in your practice starts showing any symptoms, they must receive a COVID-19 test. This tends to cause a chaotic chain reaction.
First and foremost, your employee (or you) must now wait at home, isolated, for up to a week, waiting for results.
From patients to colleagues, anybody who's come in contact with the potentially infected party now must take the same necessary step. Appointments must be cancelled. Contact-tracing calls and emails must be made as soon as possible.
Despite your best efforts to contain the potential spread of COVID-19, by the time someone even feels symptoms, it may already be too late ‒ a chaotic chain reaction is ignited.
A Dentaltown article by Dr. Thomas Giacobbi discusses this topic in detail. Through his lens, we'll examine how to mitigate risk under our current circumstances.
How Can Dental Practices Control the COVID-19 “Chain of Chaos?”
To date, there is no clear timeline for the development of a safe, widely available vaccine for COVID-19.
As such, argues Dr. Giacobbi, dental practices take steps to make rapid, proactive testing available for dental employees.
Rapid testing for asymptomatic individuals has the potential to catch an infection before it is unwittingly spread amongst coworkers and patients. That makes for immediate peace of mind.
Is it a foolproof solution? Probably not. Yet, it’s still a sound approach that mitigates risk.
Catching the virus before asymptomatic spread, as Dr. Giacobbi writes, could successfully protect an entire community.
Rapid COVID-19 Tests Are Available in Canada
As much as accurate and helpful information is being shared during this time, plentiful misinformation makes the rounds. This notion rings doubly true with COVID-19 rapid testing.
Well, we’re here to confirm that rapid testing is approved for use in Canada.
Namely, Dr. Giacobbi cites the Abbott’s ID test. It’s a toaster-sized machine that generates results in 15 minutes. While there’s been a few reported false negatives, these outliers likely stemmed from a less optimal sample collection or timing.
We empathize with any practice sticking to a budget – but paying for these tests might be worth the investment.
Recently, Canada approved another test that produces results in 13 minutes. More available options will prevent backlog for the general population's test results.
Plus, it'll help to monitor your team in real-time, so they don't find out they're infected when it's too late.
Why Do Dental Professionals Need These Tests so Badly?
The science speaks for itself – dental professionals are at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19.
There’s no accounting for your patients. You can’t control their COVID-19 vigilance beyond your practice’s confines.
Plus, you’re exposed to more harmful bacteria and germs in a dental setting because you’re working with people’s mouths. Due to the equipment you use, highly volatile aerosols are produced and linger through the air far longer than regular saliva deposits.
Should You Test Your Patients as Well?
According to Dr. Giacobbi, some dental professionals have been offering tests to their patients. Aside from the fact that you may not be approved by your local health authority to deliver such testing, Dr. Giacobbi cautions against this idea for two reasons:
- You may not be equipped to properly bill patients’ medical insurance for these tests.
- By offering COVID-19 testing, you may attract sick people to your office who want an expedited diagnosis.
Dr. Giacobbi isn't 100% against the idea; it simply doesn't work for his practice. Provided you feel that you have the infrastructure to perform these tests, it might be a worthy venture.
We’re all facing this challenge together. We hope this kind of information will help your practice successfully weather the current COVID-19 landscape.
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