Re-Opening During COVID-19

April 30, 2020

Dear Patients, 

As of Monday, May 4th, 2020, we are welcoming you back to our practice and our office hours will return to what they have been in the past: 

Monday - Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday 8am - 5pm

The past several weeks have been full of anxiety and stress for many of us because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seemingly changed our lives forever. Because of the understandable cautious stance our state and federal governments have taken to curtail the spread of the virus, our family lives have been altered, our shopping and outdoor habits have changed, and we have all noticed certain shelves in stores consistently being bare.

What I hope for the future for all of us is that we don't easily succumb to fear and even, perhaps, ignorance. We are smarter than that when we choose to educate ourselves with real knowledge and when we adhere to the wisdom learned by past generations and passed on to us. In this moment, we can all commit ourselves to better living, better eating, and better hygiene. These are the things we can control in our lives to ensure that we give ourselves the best possible chance of health and life. 

Dental hygiene appointments have always been essential. Removing disease from your mouth has always been of utmost importance. Disease in one's mouth, whether it be tooth decay or periodontal disease, is a burden to our immune system and for decades the dental profession has proven time and again that an oral-systemic link exists that affects our total overall health. I have been involved in dentistry since high school and I've been practicing dentistry for nearly 20 years if I include a couple years of dental school. But with that experience, I've seen changes in PPE requirements (remember when gloves and masks weren't used?!!), improvements in equipment, materials, and methods, plus several challenges (e.g. concerns over Hepatitis A, B, & C, AIDS, and the H1N1 pandemic). However, each viral outbreak was met by my profession with guiding precautions and thoughtful measures to guarantee the safe delivery of care to our patients. In fact, the overlying goal has always been the safe care and treatment of everyone, both patients and dental care professionals. 

Therefore, you will notice a few changes we've made to make sure you are in a safe and protected environment. Many of these changes I will list for you:

  1. When we schedule appointments or confirm appointments already made, we will screen you to make sure you are healthy (no fever, cough, shortness of breath), have not been exposed to someone who has been sick, have not traveled within 14 days. Please tell us if you have any questions or concerns about your own health. We promise to you that none of our staff, including me, has had any exposures, been sick with this virus, or has traveled. 
  2. We are trying to keep the reception area as clear as possible. Please arrive no earlier than 5 minutes prior to your appointment. We have always tried to stay on time for you and we will be even more diligent about doing so. Do not bring other family members or friends to your appointment. Your driver will be asked to wait in the car or he/she can run errands and return at the end of your scheduled appointment. 
  3. Remember that the reception area is only for scheduled patients.
  4. Becky and Laura will be wearing masks, even at the front desk area. 
  5. At least hourly, we will be wiping down doorknobs, reception chairs, and counters with 99.9% anti-viral Lysol product. Yes, it works against COVID-19.
  6. All clutter has been removed from the reception area including magazines. The small refrigerator will still have water bottles for your convenience.
  7. We will try to make your next appointment in the clinical area if we can. This has been done with your hygienist already and we will continue to follow this policy. Whenever possible, my assistant or I will try to schedule any future restorative appointments in the clinical area. This will help keep the front desk area more clear. We don't want you to feel as though we aren't honoring the six-foot distancing protocol. 
  8. You will be asked to do a pre-treatment rinse with either 1.5% hydrogen peroxide or chlorhexidine gluconate as an anti-microbial measure to reduce risk of cross contamination. 
  9. Your hygienist will temporarily NOT be using the aerosol-producing Cavitron. All cleanings will be done via hand scaling, flossing, and polishing. Please brush before your appointment!
  10. You will notice that we will be using a larger clear plastic barrier on your patient chair.
  11. Our masks will generally remain the same but we may be wearing N95 masks and/or clear face shields in the near future. 
  12. We will continue to have hand sanitizer for you.
  13. It is perfectly alright for you to wear a mask to your dental appointment. I have had some people come to their appointments wearing gloves. We would appreciate it if you removed your gloves when you arrive because the surface of those gloves has come into contact with who-knows-what prior to your arrival and you'll accidentally contaminate everything you've touched. Believe it or not, we've even had patients wear gloves to the office, need to use the restroom, and then come back into the reception area still wearing the same gloves! This is not acceptable for you or for us. If you need me to, I will educate you on how, when, and where you should be wearing gloves. Of course, you will need to remove your mask when it's time for your treatment!
  14. We have been following and will continue to follow the CDC universal precautions and OSHA standard precautions that relate to proper disinfection and sterilization of all operatory surfaces and dental instruments and equipment. Keep in mind that when those guidelines were created, it was with the assumption that every patient who walks through our door is assumed to be a carrier of a transmissible disease whether it be bacterial or viral. Remember when I mentioned the changes in my profession? Many of those changes relate to changes in sterilization and disinfection. In our office, we scrub and rinse the instruments, place them in a chemical dishwasher for a full cycle of disinfecting, rinse the instruments, package them, and then run them through a full cycle of intense heat sterilization. The machines we have to this are phenomenal and reliable. We do what is called a "spore test" weekly to ensure proper operation of our sterilizers. That spore test is immediately sent to a lab in Detroit, MI for evaluation. 

My staff and I are always happy to answer your questions or address your concerns before or during your appointment. Because of the limitations put on dentistry for the past six weeks, we had to reschedule well over 300 cleaning and restorative appointments. If you haven't rescheduled your appointment yet, I encourage you to do so at your earliest convenience. Becky or Laura may be calling you in the future if we haven't heard from you first. 

Remember, be smart - not scared. We are here to encourage you and help keep you healthy. We're all looking forward to seeing you soon.

To Your Health,

Joel Rutledge, DDS