COVID-19 Is it still okay to come to the dentist? The World Health Organization’s (WHO) declared a Pandemic of disease due to the spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) infection. In this season of heightened awareness most of us are concerned for our personal well being.
Lets get back to basics – How is COVID-19 infection transmitted?
COVID-19 is transferred mainly by droplet spread. The infective virus particles called virions are manufactured in bulk by cells that line the respiratory tracts in the nose, mouth, throat, lungs and airways which have been hijacked by the virus in infected persons. These particles are secreted by these lining cells and coughed up into the mouth infecting the saliva, and sprayed out with these respiratory secretions as droplets into the air around a person when they cough and released by nasal secretions. These droplet secretions being quite heavy, drop to the ground or onto surfaces fairly quickly. This is why social distancing works – when you maintain a distance of 1.5 meters away from other people you mainly stay out of this droplet cloud.
So they have found that methods of spread are mainly due to:
· Cough – droplet spread.
· Touch – contaminated secretions of nasal, saliva and bronchial fluids being transferred onto surfaces.
These tough little virus particles are fairly resistant to drying out so that infected surfaces stay infected for some time depending upon how absorbant the surface, the amount of sunlight etc. They have a fatty coat however which means they are readily destroyed by detergents, soaps and alcohol.
COVID-19 Is it still okay to come to the dentist? Dr Martin Jest Dental Surgery is operating with what we call ‘Universal Precautions’. We treat all patients ‘As if they could be infected’. This means we:
· Cover all possible patient treatment areas within droplet spread distance with disposable impermeable layers of plastic film, plastic backed paper towel or plastic bags. Which is changed after every patient.
· Wipe the chair surfaces down between every patient with hospital grade disinfectant – which kills virus particles rendering them non infective.
· Autoclave all reusable instruments, which renders them sterile. They are packed in a ready to use bag which we only open when the patient is seated.
· Dispose of used materials in sealed plastic bags.
· Single use clinical instruments, which cannot be sterilized are never reused.
In addition to this we now also:
· Screen all patients and ask those with any history of travel overseas in the last 14 days or have symptoms of cough, fever and generally feeling ill to not even enter the premises. https://www.ada.org.au/News-Media/News-and-Release/Latest-News/Coronavirus
· Request all patients to wash their hands on entering the premises. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
· Ask patients to not show up too early for their appointments, and do all we can to minimise waiting times. In fact if you phone when you arrive in the carpark we will call you when we are ready to bring you directly into the treatment room!
· We encourage that anyone not actively involved in the appointment should not attend the surgery.
· Wave to greet – no shaking hands etc (We are always happy to see you!).
· Clean all heavy contact areas door handles, front desk, chairs etc. multiple times a day with hospital grade disinfectant. If a surface is visibly contaminated we immediately do an extra clean. The dental surgery environment is as hygienically clean as we can possibly make it.
COVID-19 Is it okay to come to the dentist? Consider all these things when you come to the Dentist. We are open with a few additional precautions which you can help us with, to prevent cross infection with others. If you do have any concerns though remember we are only a phone call away.
We will do all we can to keep you informed, as we find out more about the virus, its spread within Australia and also if the Government and Australian Dental Association policies on this virus change.
We look forward to continiuing to look after your dental needs in these challenging times. Stay well.