Doing Dentistry in the Time of COVID-19

Doing Dentistry in the Time of COVID-19

[Credit: The Center for Disease Control’s Public Health Image Library]

(SAN ANTONIO, Texas) — Four months ago, Dr. Nancy Duque returned to her dental practice after an abrupt two-month shut down for coronavirus. It hasn’t been easy, but she’s managed to adapt her practice to the new world and keep her business afloat. As reopening’s continue, the entire field of dentistry — one of the most close-contact professional services one can provide — must learn how to operate under the new normal.

Covid-19 was a drastic change for everyone. Duque said that this was the first time in her life when she couldn’t go to work, which was “weird.”

As of September 9, there have been 43,667 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Antonio. Overall 688,534 Texans have tested positive and 14,893 have died from complications from the virus. The latest update for Oct. 4 is 58,678 confirmed cases for San Antonio and 765,894 for Texas and 16,025 deaths in total. 

Due to the increase, the Texas Dental Association has worked with Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to provide PPE to all dental practices. The groups also created a set of 16 extensive guidelines for dental practices during Covid-19.

Duque used the two months she was closed to understand the ins and outs of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to keep her practice afloat. “I spent a lot of time learning how to get the PPP loan and learning how to implement the new PPE requirements, and what to do at the office as far as infection control and that type of thing.” 

Duque thanks the government for assistance during such a tiring time as she believes without it she’s not sure they would have opened back up. When she did reopen everything “Worked out fine, because we had a big backlog of people who needed to come in. So, we were pretty much busy from day one.” Duque Said. 

Running a practice in the time of coronavirus

Following state regulations also helped Duque avoid an outbreak and weather the pandemic so far. 

Clients are only allowed into the building after calling from their car. Duque makes them fill out a questionnaire, checks their temperature, sees only one client in the office at a time, takes extra time to disinfect the room before and after a client has entered, and has closed the reception area to patients.

In the beginning, she even made clients leave through a side door to avoid contact at all costs.   

The San Antonio government let students physically return to school on September 8, but this wasn’t a large concern for Duque as only 5% of her clients are children. 

Duque has been practicing for a long time and has yet to see anything as drastic as COVID. The closest parallel was the AIDS crisis when they shifted to using gloves and masks for protection.

As for the future, Duque hopes that the pandemic will pass quickly but is not sure what the future will bring. “I don’t know how long this will last. If it’s something that will continue indefinitely or will there be a day when they go, ‘Oh, you can go back to what you did before.’”