Coronavirus Means New Normal For Dentists

Jun 7, 2020

Since the coronavirus was classified as a pandemic, it has changed how the dental industry operates.

North Carolina continues to slowly reopen and dentists are welcoming back their patients with new precautions in place.

Before the coronaviurs, a patient would go into the lobby, check-in and wait to be called to see their dentist. However, there is now a touchless check-in experience. Patients sit in their car, call the office and let the staff know they've arrived. Then someone comes out to take your temperature, offer hand sanitizer, ensure you wear a mask and then begin the dentist visit.

Travis Bell, a dentist in Greensboro, said even though he closed his office in March, he's continued to work through the shutdown to provide emergency procedures to patients.
Credit Courtesy Travis Bell DDS

This is the new normal for dentist offices across the state thanks to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners and the American Dental Association.

In Greensboro, dentist Travis Bell ensures that his staff follows these guidelines. He shut down his office in March when the World Health Organization classifed the coronavirus as a pandemic. However, he still continued working with a small staff for emergency procedures.

"It has been, by far in my career, the one event that has made us take a step back and really evaluate the policies and procedures that we set, that we follow, that we hold our team members and our offices accountable to follow," Bell said.

Since reopening, Bell said his goal is to make patients' experience as touchless as possible for their own safety.

"There's really no need for you to touch any item in the facility," he said. "Someone's checking you in outside and opening the door for you. You'll notice the other doors inside, if they were present, they were open. So you don't have to touch anything. It's just going to be the standard for the foreseeable future."

Dentists are in one of the highest risk professions. The virus can spread as they use instruments that contain droplets of water, saliva, blood and other debris.

However, there's no data available to assess the risk of transmission of the coronavirus during dental practice, according to the CDC.

North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners CEO Bobby White thinks the future of dental care is forever changed.

"When HIV first hit the world stage, dentists changed things radically with the sterilization processes," he said. "I think the same thing has happened here and that is that while this virus is still active, until unless there's a cure or vaccine or whatever, the standard of care is going to be different for dental offices."