Caring for the dental health of the Dartford area and beyond!

Post-COVID-19 return to work policy - 11th May 2020 by 4drdc-logins

This policy has been created based on multiple updated sources from within the dental and medical professions. It outlines modifications to our normal procedures that we intend to employ once dental practices can be reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic peak of infection has subsided.

It is not known at this time whether these procedures are temporary or whether they will become a permanent feature of the way dental practices must be run to ensure patient and staff safety in the future. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is still being evaluated and studied and policies and recommendations are likely to change in line with new scientific evidence over time.

We would like to thank all of our patients for their patience and forbearance doing this long period of practice closure and for their understanding and cooperation whilst we implement new measures at the practice.

Patient communication before reopening

We would of course like to continue providing necessary dental care to all of our patients in the safest possible environment. We therefore respectfully request your full cooperation with any new or modified procedures at the practice.

Our receptionists will be contacting patients with ongoing treatment and confirming appointments to continue with current courses of treatment. Our patients with ongoing or delayed courses of treatment will be prioritised in the first three months of opening.

We will ask all patients who are returning for treatment to update their Medical History. This includes a new, more detailed, section regarding your recent activity which will allow us to assess your level of risk for coronavirus infection before you attend the surgery. We may be in touch via telephone more than usual prior to your visit.

New measures to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission

Our normal cross-infection control protocols against all previously known pathogens are already woven into all clinical activity carried out at the practice. It should be remembered that the dental practice is already a very clean environment compared to public areas and it is not possible for us to control sources of infection outside the dental practice.

There have been multiple suggestions from many sources as to how the risk of transmission of COVID-19 can be reduced in a dental clinical environment.

We have collectively evaluated all of these and feel that the following measures will reduce risk to an acceptable level at the practice. Please be assured that all of our clinical staff will also be complying with these procedures to reduce the risk of cross infection in both directions.

Before attending the practice

Our staff will contact you to complete a pre-attendance assessment over the phone. If we feel that you are a medium to high risk of having possibly been infected, even if you are asymptomatic, we will respectfully request for you to delay booking any appointments with us for at least one month. However we will endeavour to make provision for even higher risk patients to have emergency treatment when required.

We would recommend that patients in high-risk and extremely high-risk groups delay non-essential dental treatment for as long as possible until the trend of the pandemic becomes clear. To find out whether you are in a higher or very high-risk group please see the link below:
www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/

We will operate a payment-in-advance policy to regular examination and hygienist visits (which are normally made on the day of your visit) during this period. Advance payment will be requested when your appointment is booked and should be completed before attendance. This reduces the requirement for unnecessary contact or use of card terminals at reception.

When travelling to the practice, we would recommend that you limit your close contact with other members of the public as far as possible. If you are able to drive or be driven and picked up by somebody with whom you live, this would be ideal. Alternatively, we would recommend coming to the practice in a taxi, ideally a partitioned black cab so that you are separated from the driver. Please book cabs in advance as there may be a shortage due to this reason when businesses reopen.

Please carry hand sanitiser with you at all times, use regularly and avoid touching your face. Please wash your hands thoroughly for at least 30 seconds at every opportunity.

Arriving at the practice

We would like to eliminate waiting times in reception as much as possible so that you are not in close proximity to other patients. Accordingly, appointments will be staggered so that patients do not arrive or leave at the same time as other patients as far as we are able to manage.

We will ask you to use hand sanitizer on arrival and restrooms will be out of use.

Practice procedures

Our team will have spent time critically looking at every aspect of the practice with a view to removing all non-essential items in the open to reduce the number of objects that may act as fomites (surfaces on which microorganisms may reside and can potentially be the cause of cross infection). You will find that the practice may appear quite bare when you attend.

All clinical and common areas including door handles and surfaces will be regularly disinfected at set times. We will be providing an additional 30-minute buffer period between patients to allow additional time for decontamination procedures, allow for any treatment overruns and allow preparation time for the next patient so that they do not need to wait in the reception area.

All future appointments will be made and confirmed by email or telephone to limit your time spent at reception.

Dental procedures

All dental staff will be upgrading their personal protective equipment in line with current recommendations and evidence including FFP2 and/or FFP3 masks, visors and protective clothing as appropriate. We may look different to you but underneath it all it is the same team!
We are especially mindful that most dental treatments are aerosol-generating procedures (AGP’s). It is almost impossible for us to carry out meaningful dental procedures without generation of some level of aerosol. Aerosol suspended in the air is a potential source of infection which we wish to keep to a minimum. Currently, the dental literature suggests:

  • Our use of our normal high-volume suction reduces aerosol production by over 90%.
  • Our regular facemasks filter approximately 60% of remaining airborne particles.
  • FFP2 and FFP3 masks filter 94% and 99% respectively of airborne particles in both directions (patient to clinician and clinician to patient).

We, therefore, feel that our normal dental procedures can be carried out with minimal risk.

At the end of your appointment, we will collect all of your protective equipment for disposal by incineration and you will be able to leave directly after your appointment.

We are also looking into the validity of viricidal air filtration and purification systems for the surgeries and the reception area to further reduce aerosol risk.

The time taken to carry out treatment sessions may need to be extended by approximately 30 minutes in order to accommodate enhanced cross infection control procedures so please be mindful that you may need to spend longer at the practice than usual.

This policy will be constantly reviewed and updated as necessitated by circumstances over time.
If you have any questions regarding this policy or about your dental care please do not hesitate to contact us.