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This is how dental professionals should deal with COVID-19 fears in patients

With coronavirus cases and deaths rising by the hour, it’s only natural that patients will be extremely concerned about having dental work done at this time. While we recommend delaying non-urgent treatments, some patients might consider postponing treatment they really need until the pandemic is under control. This could result in your patients suffering intense pain and ultimately creating bigger problems for themselves in the future.

Protecting your patients, your staff and yourself from infection should be a priority. But it’s also your duty to maintain your patients’ dental health and ease their pain. To stop unnecessary suffering, you need to ease patients' fears about COVID-19 while doing everything you can to prevent the virus from spreading. It’s a difficult balance to find. But it’s vital to continue running a successful dental practice following the coronavirus outbreak.

Who is most at risk?

The coronavirus doesn’t affect everyone equally. The people who are most at risk of suffering extreme symptoms are those aged 60+ and people with underlying health conditions, such as kidney disease, heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. People who fall into one or both of these categories are more likely to develop more serious respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, or die after contracting COVID-19.

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What about everyone else?

Children are the least affected demographic. Very few children have contracted the coronavirus and even those who have developed the disease have shown minor symptoms. Young healthy adults are at risk of catching COVID-19, but their symptoms are also mild. 

 

The problem isn’t children and healthy adults catching the disease. The problem is them developing the disease then passing it onto the elderly and those with underlying health conditions who could be seriously affected.

What can you do?

For at-risk patients

Until the government introduces specific measures, it’s your responsibility to decide how to adapt your dental practice for the coronavirus outbreak. Something you might consider is to postpone all non-urgent treatments for patients aged 60+ and patients with underlying medical conditions. The CDC recommends these people keep away from others who are sick and avoid crowds.

COVID19 handout dental practices pdf file

Encouraging them to stay home and avoid sitting with others in the waiting area is a smart move and could save people’s lives. Not only will you be doing your part to stop the spread of the virus in your local community, but you’ll also be strengthening your patients’ faith and trust in your business, since you’re putting their wellbeing first. When the coronavirus is finally under control, they’ll remember the care you gave them and will continue to be loyal customers. 

For everyone else

You can still provide dental treatment to children and healthy adults who aren’t displaying any symptoms of a respiratory tract infection. To help put patients’ minds at ease, it’s important you inform them that you’re doing everything you can to keep the risk of infection down to a minimum. It’s also essential you invite them to help by following standard infection control measures and adhering to the associated rules and requests you implement within your dental practice.

Encourage patients to help you by:

  • Not stockpiling face masks required by the medical industry to continue operating.
  • Not coming into your dental practice if they’re feeling unwell.
  • Sneezing/coughing into tissues/elbows.
  • Keeping at least 6 feet away from other patients in the waiting area.
  • Informing you if they see another patient showing COVID-19 symptoms.

In return, let your patients know you’re taking care of their wellbeing by:

  • Avoiding treating anyone showing symptoms unless it’s urgent.
  • Giving patients and staff easy access to tissues, disposal receptacles and hand washing stations.
  • Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces.
  • Providing your staff with training for virus detecting, prevention, response and control.
  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest information and acting accordingly.
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We’re in this together

With multiple patients in waiting rooms, lots of hand-to-oral contact and instruments that carry a risk of infection if not properly sterilized, it’s easy to understand why patients would be concerned about attending their dental appointments. A little fear goes a long way to helping people understand the gravity of the situation and act accordingly to reduce the spread of the virus. But it could also deter patients visiting the dentist out of alarm, resulting in doing themselves more harm than good.

At a time when widespread misinformation is leading people to panic more than they should, it’s important you do your part to protect the wellbeing of your local community. Spread the truth about the virus and tell your patients what you’re doing to combat it. Explain that every measure is in place to reduce infection transmission and as long as they adhere to proper protocol and follow your recommendations, they can receive their dental treatment with minimum risk.