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California Dentists Prepare For A Future With New Coronavirus Rules

A patient without medical insurance gets free dental services from volunteer ...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: A patient without medical insurance gets free dental services from volunteer dentists and dental technicians at the Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic inside the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 27, 2010.

Dental offices around California have been dark since the middle of March because of strict COVID-19 social distancing rules, but dentists are ready to get back to work.

But back to work will look different than it did before the pandemic.

Dan Roberts has a periodontal practice in Encinitas. He said the best way to beat COVID-19 is to keep it out of the office.

“And that’s where we do the questionnaire over the phone,” Roberts said. “We take a temperature outside before the patients come into the office. We have (patients) wash their hands with hand sanitizer before they come in.”

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Reported by Erik Anderson , Video by Nicholas Mcvicker

COVID-19 is spread in the air and some of the high-speed tools, like drills and scalers, create aerosols that can carry the virus.

Roberts and his staff will wear masks, medical scrubs, and gloves to prevent transmission. He also added a heap filter that will process air inside the office’s surgical suites.

Roberts is also using specialized tools, like an Isolite for surgical procedures. It is a plastic dam that can physically block any aerosols created during surgery.

“These little holes work as suction,” Roberts said. “It also has a light, very cool. So, it makes a dark hole light. It creates a barrier and it creates suction.”

Roberts is currently only taking emergency patients.

He is eager to begin seeing patients again because he is still paying bills to get ready for the new normal, but his incoming revenues have stopped.

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The new tools and processes will not go into effect until the California Department of Public Health clears the way for dental offices to reopen for more regular procedures.

Dentists would also like a little peace of mind about their patients, and that can only happen one way.

“We also would like to test patients to make sure patients don’t have the active virus currently, which is an antigen test,” said Richard Nagy, president of California Dental Association as well as doing an antibody test to see if they’ve been exposed.”

Dentists want to get back to serving people, Nagy said, but they know they have to do it in a way that protects themselves, staff, and patients.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

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Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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