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Dentists Donate Protective Equipment To Health Care Workers While Facing Their Own Challenges

Dr. Lindsay Pfeffer with I-Orthodontics sits in front of personal protective ...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: Dr. Lindsay Pfeffer with I-Orthodontics sits in front of personal protective equipment that will be donated to San Diego healthcare workers, March 26, 2020.

San Diego dentists are stepping up to help health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak by donating masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Globally, there is a worldwide shortage of PPE.

"If our health workers become infected, then we don't have any health workers to help us," said Dr. Lindsay Pfeffer with I-Orthodontics. "They just need a regular mask and so we have those in dentistry."

As an orthodontist, Pfeffer knows the feeling of not having proper protective equipment.

"You want to make sure you have a new clean mask for every patient," she said. "Same with gloves. You don’t want to be limited on gloves. That’s the scariest thing in the world."

The donations are being gathered at the San Diego County Dental Society, and the general public is welcome to bring what they have.

Video by Roland Lizarondo

"We are sending them out to UC San Diego, Scripps, Sharp, 2-1-1 and actually firefighters and police officers are people that don’t have any of them," Pfeffer said.

Dentists are considered essential during the coronavirus outbreak but are being asked to only help patients that need emergency services.

"Our mission is still the same long term for you — it’s just we slightly have to tweak the way we’re delivering care," said Dr. Coleman Meadows with Seaside Dental in University City. "Effectively what that means for us right now is eliminating routine and nonemergent care. So certainly if something hurts, there’s an infection, something breaks — that’s what we’re here for."

That means six-month checkups are on hold. But even though you might not visit your dentist, you still need to take care of your teeth.

"In a good year you're going to see me two hours out of 365 days — 99.9% of what we can do is done in the home," Meadows said.

That means keeping up with brushing twice a day and flossing too.

Since dentists are only taking emergency patients right now many practices are not open.

"It’s tough to run a business when you’re closed," said Dr. Thomas Bierman of Park West Dental, while sitting inside his empty office.

Bierman has had to get creative to check in on patients.

"Sort of consults over the phone things like that — I mean we did one via text and picture messages," Bierman said.

Bierman is only billing for emergency visits right now and has had to lay off workers.

"(Having) people go on unemployment and things of that nature, it’s such a hard decision to make," Bierman said. "But sometimes it’s just what you have to do to kind of weather the storm. Hopefully, this doesn’t last very long (and) we have to have a business for them to come back to too."

It’s hard to keep a social distance of six feet for dental work and procedures — but dentists say they are taking extra precautions right now to ensure everyone’s safety.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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