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Coronavirus: Okanagan dentists mitigating transmission risks

Okanagan dentists reopen amid pandemic

A trip to the dentist now looks quite different than usual, as the industry is adapting to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have a pre-screening via phone, and then again when they come in they’re screened again. There is a lot more wiping down of surfaces,” said Dr. Tanner Pavuk, A Sopa Square Dental Clinic dentist.

READ MORE: B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for fourth straight day

Protocols and guidelines have been put in place by the provincial health officer, the B.C. Dental Association, the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. and WorkSafeBC, so that dental work can resume in the province.

So what exactly would a visit look like?

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“They are stopped at the door, you can’t come in unless they have an appointment. We’re doing things like checking for temperatures, sanitizing peoples hands and restricting movement within the practice,” said Stephen Munro, Care Dental’s branch manager.

Other protocols are in place as well, such as required personal protective equipment for dentistry staff such as gloves, masks, protective face shields and gowns.

READ MORE: 27 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed as Alberta pushes up Phase 2 start date

And just like for public health, the availability of PPE is a major concern and an issue for dentists.

“[It was] very difficult [to get PPE], right now we are limited, depending on the supplier,” said Jo Szady, Sopa Square Dental Clinic’s manager.

“It could be three boxes to five boxes, whether that’s gloves or masks.”

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Dr. Brian Ashley, who runs his own dental practice, says PPE was one of the biggest issues he faced with reopening.

“It’s been a challenge, I think I’ve spent more time trying to find masks and gowns[than anything else],” said Dr. Ashley.

“It’s been quite a crazy ride that we’ve been on here.”

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One point of concern for dentists, staff and people visiting the clinics, is the possible risk of COVID-19 transmission by aerosols.

Aerosols are particles in the air, created by pressure.

While every dentist has their own systems in place to mitigate aerosol transmission, Care Dental has a system that is unique to Canada.

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“We’re really proud to have incorporated B.C.’s, first in a dental setting, Canadian standard healthcare facility airborne infection isolation room,” said Munro.

“Which means we control the air in the building.”

The system uses high and low pressure systems to isolate and clear out air that may be contaminated within the facility.

School back in session: Interior Health reassures parents, students and staff in letter
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