Is it safe to have dental surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We follow all and exceed most of the public health guidelines and directives when it comes to patient safety and protection. We have made several changes to the building and to our operating procedures to keep both ourselves and our patients safe.
Do I need to visit my dentist if I need to have a consultation?
Our team has evaluated how we treat our patients. When we start to get to know a new patient, or when we treat a regular patient, we realised that we spend quite a bit of time discussing their medical history, their dental needs and aspirations, as well as communicating treatment options. While this time is important to us, it is not always absolutely necessary to meet patients face-to-face. We have signed up for an online platform where we carry out online consultations when possible.
Can I limit my contact with other patients when I visit the dentist?
As part of our new procedures, we have changed our appointment system to ensure adequate time between each patient visit to reduce the contact between different people. In addition, we also ask patients to come for their appointments alone or with one parent or guardian in the case of minors.
How is the air handled in the treatment rooms?
We have installed a ducted ventilation system that has a total capacity of 2,000 m3 per hour. Our system achieves about 12 air changes per hour, or one air change every five minutes. This is well in excess to what is required by law. Furthermore, all of the air from dental surgery rooms is extracted from floor level to ensure that all heavy liquid aerosols are filtered out.
Is it possible to catch COVID-19 from the dentist’s chair?
As per standard practice, the dentist’s chair is manually wiped down with disinfectant after each use and all instruments are sterilised. Even prior to COVID-19 we had a policy of packing instruments in sterilisable pouches to prevent their re-contamination before use. As part of our new COVID-19 procedures, we have invested in a French technology called ‘NOCOSPRAY’, which is a solution of hydrogen peroxide that is vaporised into the air and settles on all the equipment and environment. This disinfects all the rooms and equipment inside it twice a day to ensure that all workspaces are disinfected even in the hard to reach areas where patient-derived aerosols may settle.
So does your ventilation system also remove this hydrogen peroxide disinfectant?
No, our ventilation system has an automated closure mechanism that allows us to time it so that it does not disrupt the disinfection process.
I am afraid of the dentist or nurse being close to my face during my appointment.
We have taken a head to toe approach to protecting both our patients and staff from COVID-19. Our medical professionals wear protective hats, visors, and FFP2 or industry certified 3D printed P3 half-masks that are designed to fit the individual worker’s face. In addition, we also have goggles, washable PPE gowns, and all the laundry and storage facilities for these.
So do you change your PPE gowns after each use?
Yes, we change our PPE gowns after each patient however, to reduce the environmental impact we have invested in medical-grade machine-washable isolation gowns.
I am scared of sitting in a room where someone has had their mouth open for a long time.
Not all dental procedures involve the production of dental aerosol, which is mostly water with some germs and viruses from the patient’s mouth, but in some procedures this is unavoidable. Good research has shown that when dentists or hygienists are assisted by a dental nurse, this can reduce dental aerosol production by anything between 90 and 98%. One of the key steps that we have taken is to ensure that in all aerosol generating procedures, dentists and hygienists are always assisted by a trained dental nurse. Our ventilation system has a high airflow to bring clean air into the room and remove potentially contaminated air at a very high rate. We are also placing a special disinfectant in the water supply to the dental powered instruments so that each aerosol droplet also contains some disinfectant.
Are there any other changes that you have made as a result of COVID-19?
We take the “universal precautions approach” just as we did previously for blood-borne viruses. Each and every patient is a possible risk, so when we treat a patient, we now assume that they are carrying viruses which could spread via the airborne method. Therefore we have changed how we approach each appointment and procedure. We have done everything possible to put into place equipment and procedures that reduce this risk as much as humanly possible, for the benefit of both our patients and our staff.