All dentists and dental offices must use best practices and follow the standard of care to protect patients and provide the safest office environment possible. This has always been the law in Georgia, but now, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, these dental providers must do much more.
To reduce the risk that patients and staff will be exposed to COVID-19, the American Dental Association has provided various guidelines to dental offices. The guidelines echo the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
These are among the highlights of the new guidelines and should be instituted by general dentists, oral surgeons, endodontists, periodontists, and all other dental specialists:
■ Dental offices must make very effort to interview patients by telephone, text or video conference prior to their visit. This is something that certainly has been on the rise, and will continue in frequency. I do not see a down side to this.
■ If an emergency or urgent dental patient does not have a fever and is otherwise without even mild symptoms of COVID-19 infection, they can be seen in dental settings with appropriate protocols and personal protective equipment in place. But why risk it, why not have these in place all the time for all patients.
■ Practitioners must wear a surgical mask and eye protection with solid side shields or face shield to protect membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth. Surgical masks are one use only, and one mask should be used per patient.
■ Practitioners should reduce aerosol production as much as possible, as the transmission of COVID-19 seems to occur via droplets or aerosols.
■ Aerosol-generating procedures should be scheduled as the last appointment of the day. For an aerosol-generating procedure performed without N-95 masks, regardless of disinfection procedures being effectively executed, subsequent patients and staff are at moderate risk for COVID-19 infection and transmission. Given that asymptomatic patients may carry the virus, CDC suggests a 14-day quarantine.
The days of waiting to be seen in a crowded dental office waiting room should be long gone. As I have experienced during a recent dental visit, some dentists require you to wait in your car until they call you. Once called, you do not enter the waiting room at all. You simply go right to the exam room and into the chair. This makes sense and maybe this will become the new norm. At least it cuts down on the patient waiting time. As we are coming to realize, change is inevitable and some of the resulting changing as a result of the response to COVID-19 will have long lasting positive benefits.
Robert J. Fleming is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright & Fleming, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia and Decatur, Georgia. He is a personal injury attorney who has been handling wrongful death, dental malpractice, medical negligence, car accidents and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been severely injured or died as a result of negligence for over 25 years. He practices in the Atlanta, Georgia area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb counties in Georgia and nearby cities such as Alpharetta, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Stone Mountain. If you or a family member has been seriously injured and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online. We are here to help.