Dental practices learning how they’ll treat patients after pandemic ends

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ST. LOUIS – Following a FOX Files story, viewers had plenty of questions about the procedures for the next time they visit a dentist.

What FOX 2 learned is dental professionals across St. Louis are still figuring this all out as well.

“This is a very unique thing, what we’re doing now,” Dr. Jeff Dalin said.

Dalin is a staple in the dental industry with more than 40 years of experience. He knows family dentistry, but he also knows the industry will be forever changed due to COVID-19.

“We had the HIV-Aids scare 20 to 25 years ago and learned all types of things about infection control, but this takes it to a new level,” he said.

Since the outbreak, his office is closed as CDC guidelines put a halt to all dentistry practices not deemed an extreme emergency like root canals and infections.

For the time being, the dentist used this time to properly prepare his dental assistants for when they all return.

“It’s still very difficult,” he said. “I find myself getting very excited when I see an email about disposable gowns. Then I’ll call and they’ll say we’re limited we can only send you 10. So it’s a work, a constant work in progress.”

Thankfully, the Greater St. Louis Dental Society is stepping in to help facilitate the sale of PPE and making sure offices are equipped.

After a FOX Files report, many viewers wanted to know what all this will mean for their families when they can finally return.

Dr. Dalin cautions patients to expect measures they’ve never seen before like longer appointment times for anything as small as a cleaning.

“We used to use a ultrasonic cleaner, sprays out a lot of water,” the dentist said. “That aerosol spray is the most dangerous part of what we’re doing. I’ve already told my hygienist, get used to not using that machine anymore. They may be doing more hand scaling and that will take longer.”

For other dental professionals like Dr. Tika Shah with People’s Health Center, the same precautions are being taken in her office.

Standard procedures like routine cleanings are not a part of the next phase of CDC guidelines, so those appointments will have to sit on the backburner.

“For us, we probably won’t be ready until the end of May or beginning of June,” Dr. Shah said.

Therefore, she says patience from families will be key.

“We all have to be patient, it’s a new thing. Everything is going to change,” she said.

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