The COVID-19 pandemic has brought around a lot of things about our daily lives. One of the most crucial aspects that have significantly changed is our regular visit to the dental office treatment. March and April 2020 were the most critical two months when dental office treatment was completely shut down, and all treatments except emergency dental services were put on hold to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Recently, the health ministry has started to lift the restrictions and restart some healthcare services slowly. However, things are not the same as they were before the pandemic.
I was scheduled for a root canal treatment of my lower molar before the pandemic chaos started. But my treatment was put on hold. Although I was put on medications to reduce the infection during the quarantine period, I was still in a lot of pain. Finally, when I received a dentist’s call to schedule an emergency visit for dental office treatment to treat the tooth pain, I felt relieved and a bit nervous.
As a dental patient, I was anxious about the risk of contamination through aerosol. That is something I had been reading a lot lately, and root canal treatment is an invasive procedure that made me even more scared to move forward. However, I could not sit at home and deal with the pain forever; it was becoming unbearable and frustrating to the extent that I could not focus on my work. So finally, I had a long chat with my dentist; she asked me a few questions to see if I had any COVID-19 symptoms. She also briefed me about what all to expect at the dental office treatment to make me feel less nervous.
My dentist always reassured me about the safety measures, and I was pleasantly surprised with the efforts that she put in to make my visit more comfortable and less anxious. For better understanding, let me break down my experience into critical points –
Changes I experienced at The dental office Treatment:
Unlike a regular visit for dental office treatment that I was accustomed to before the pandemic, I observed that the dental office treatment was only open for emergency dental treatments. Moreover, the dentist scheduled only one appointment per day to minimize the cross-contamination risk from one patient to another. There were marks spaced out on the floor to allow physical distancing between every individual present in the dental clinic. Even the chairs in the waiting room were spaced out at least two meters apart.
When I entered the dental office, I was asked to put my belongings in a sanitized room, and I was also asked to sanitize my hand and wear my mouth mask until the procedure started. A thermal thermometer was used to take my temperature.
Every dental staff was wearing more protective gear than usual. This included mouth masks, head caps, gloves, face shields, shoe cover, and gowns. They disinfected the operative room while I was waiting outside in the waiting room.
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Changes experienced during dental Office treatment:
During the dental appointment, only one extra person other than the dentist and me was allowed to assist. Everyone else was asked to stay outside the room. Their assistant, who worked in the operative room, was not allowed to step out or do any other work. Each dental staff member was assigned a specific task to avoid running around and increasing the risk of contamination. The dental chair was disinfected and covered with a plastic cover. I was asked to wear a head cap, shoe cover, and a protective gown before sitting on the chair.
Because of the risk of aerosolizing the deadly virus, the dentist limited the use of specific dental tools. She did not use the air/water syringe. Instead, she preferred to use a sterile syringe to irrigate the tooth and mouth. She also used a sterile rubber dam to isolate the tooth with a high-evacuation suction device. Looking at all of the protective measures that everyone in the dental office was following, made me feel more comfortable and safe. My appointment was quick, and it got over in probably thirty minutes.
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Changes in the cost of Dental Office treatment:
During the pandemic, the dental team put in many efforts to get personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 respirator masks, gowns, face shields, head, and foot covers. That is one reason why the cost of my dental treatment is slightly higher than the usual price. My dentist explained that not even a single penny of the extra charge goes to the personal expense. She also showed me a pandemic-related PPE billing code that has been specially created for dentists to use, if necessary.
I was informed about the cost changes well before the procedure through informed consent to fully understand the reason. And it was not a significant rise in the cost, so I complied with them. I talked to my insurance provider to check if they would cover the cost of PPE additionally, and luckily, they approved it.
On the whole, I would say that my dental experience undergoing an invasive procedure during the pandemic was surprisingly very reassuring and safe. The dentists and their team are working effortlessly to take every protective measure for their patients’ safety. In the beginning, I was very doubtful and nervous and to take this step, but I am glad I did.