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Should you close your dental practice when COVID-19 strikes in your area?

With the coronavirus spreading so rapidly, it’s only a matter of time before your area is affected. When it is, have you thought about how your dental practice is going to deal with it? Are you better off continuing to run your business and treat patients? Or is it best to close your doors and wait until the outbreak is under control?

It’s your right to remain open

At this time, dental offices are not required by law to close because of the coronavirus. Dental associations in some states, for example the CDA in California, are advising practices to limit their treatment to patients with urgent oral health needs. This is wise advice to protect your practice and your local community from infection. But ultimately, the decision to open or close is entirely yours.

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As a dental professional, you have a huge impact on your local community. Not only can you help your neighbours maintain bright healthy smiles, but you’re also responsible for aspects of their wellbeing that extend far beyond oral care. From detecting diabetes early on in patients to helping prevent the opioid crisis from spiralling further out of control, keeping your doors open and treating patients during trying times is a noble and worthy act.

If you follow our advice to protect your dental practice from COVID-19, there’s no reason to close your office. This blog post contains all the actionable advice you need to stop the spread of the coronavirus and keep your office free from infection. Read it closely, put our steps into practice and encourage your staff to read it. It’s in everyone’s best interests to do all we can to prevent the spread of the virus.

Reasons to close your dental practice

No matter how much you want to continue life as normal and carry on treating patients, there are some extenuating circumstances which will push you to close your dental practice until the problem has been resolved. 

Lack of face masks

Wearing proper PPE while treating patients is essential in dentistry, especially during a virus outbreak. If you can’t source adequate numbers of face masks, you’re left with no choice but to cancel your appointments and close your doors.

With the exception of healthcare workers, the CDC recommends only people showing COVID-19 symptoms wear face masks. Healthy people should not wear face masks unless treating someone who is sick and unable to wear a mask. Encourage your patients to follow these guidelines and avoid stockpiling face masks. Every unnecessary purchase makes it more difficult for healthcare workers to do their job.

Ordered by authorities

Dental practices currently have no legal obligation to close their practices. As the coronavirus outbreak develops and spreads, it’s possible a law will be put in place forcing the temporary closure of dental practices or at least imposing strict regulations on who dental professionals are allowed to treat. 

COVID19 handout dental practices pdf file

If this happens, you’ll be obliged to close your office until the order has been lifted. By continuing to practice, you’ll be putting people’s lives in danger and risk major fines or jail time.

Significant drop in patients

Experiencing a huge drop in patients due to fear over the coronavirus is another reason you might consider closing your dental practice. With staff and utility costs, keeping your practice open with a limited number of clients could prove to be more expensive than closing your doors. No one can accurately estimate how long the virus will continue to circulate. This means it’s impossible to manage your finances to get you through this tough time.

Although it’s a job no one wants, sometimes a virus like this will force you to dismiss your staff. At least for the time being. One way to get around this problem no one wants to face is to work exclusively with temp workers.

When you hire temporary dental staff via Cloud Dentistry, you only pay and employ the workers for the exact hours you need them. If you have to cancel upcoming appointments or patients have rescheduled, you can hire a dental hygienist or dental assistant for just a couple of hours to help you out. If you have zero appointments one day, you can hold off booking dental professionals until your appointment schedule looks healthier.

Having this type of flexibility massively helps you save money while still helping your local community maintain their dental health. Especially during such turbulent times. 

You fall sick

If you’re both the owner and only dentist within your practice, falling sick (with coronavirus symptoms or otherwise) will likely make you close your doors. No matter how competent your best dental hygienist is, they’re underqualified and inexperienced to do the work of a full dentist. 

It’s likely all the other dentists you know are currently working in their own practices and are unable to cover for you. Going to the trouble of hiring a full-time dentist is far too much hassle, especially when you’re sick. So what can you do?

Hire a temporary dentist to take over until you’re feeling better. Hiring a dentist with Cloud Dentistry works in the exact same way as hiring a dental hygienist or a dental assistant. You only have to hire the dentist for the exact hours and days you require them. If everything goes better than anticipated and you’re happy to take a back seat, you can even hire the dentist permanently without having to pay any additional fees.

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The decision is yours

Only a government decree or one of the extreme reasons listed above warrant closing your dental practice. Until one of them presents itself, the decision to keep your practice open is ultimately yours. If you follow our guidelines to protect yourself against infections and encourage patients to do their part to stop the spread of the virus, there’s no reason you can’t carry on running your dental practice as normal.