MANILA – When dentists in the Philippines were allowed to reopen their clinics last June, patients were hesitant to visit them for fear of contracting the Covid-19 virus. To help patients feel safe about returning, oral healthcare professionals now the maximum precautions.
Rizal-based dentist, Dr. Anna Jeanine Ferrer, 31, said they also fear the possibility of getting infected even before the pandemic and feel relatively at ease now that infection control precautions are more stringent.
Based on the Philippine Dental Association guidelines, Ferrer said they have stopped accepting walk-in patients to prevent crowding in the clinic. Instead, telemedicine services will be used to screen patients.
“We’re now by appointment. Before a patient visits our clinic, we have online consultations first. We assess if the case is urgent or emergency,” she said. Emergency or urgent cases such as when patients experience tooth pain or swelling are immediately given treatment, but they avoid aerosol-generating procedures such as teeth cleaning or prophylaxis,” she added.
Currently, Ferrer said they could only set appointments for four to five patients a day — only one patient at a time inside the clinic but children and the elderly can go with a companion. Before the pandemic, they could accommodate 10 to 20 patients.
She said all patients have to fill out Google forms indicating their personal information for contact tracing purposes before showing up at the clinic. They have also covered both the reception area and treatment area with medical-grade plastic sheets, removed their waiting rooms, provide alcohol and sanitizers, installed air purifiers, and utilize PPE — which is changed after treating every patient, she added.
To reduce the creation of aerosols, Ferrer said she also purchased intra and extra oral aerosol suction machines.
Aerosols, as defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, are a suspension of tiny particles or droplets in the air, such as dusts, mists, or fumes.
She said ultraviolet light is also used to sanitize the air, surfaces, and equipment in dental offices, to maintain the trust and confidence of patients and make them feel safe.
Oral health, she said, also gives clues about a person’s overall health by detecting the early signs and symptoms of systemic disease.