The restrictions are lifted and Iowans are able to visit their dentists again, but the experience will be quite different for most of us due to the pandemic.
Dr. Jeffrey Chaffin, chief dental officer for Delta Dental of Iowa, says don’t expect to just pop in for your usual six-month check-up. “You should expect a call before you go into the office to see whether you’ve been sick or exposed to COVID-19,” Chaffin says. “Temperature (taking) would be pretty common in most dental offices as well, and fewer people in the office, the dental waiting room is going to look different to support social distancing.”
Many dentists will also ask that only the patient comes to the office, without other family members. Most dentists and hygienists wore masks and gloves before coronavirus swept in, so now, they’ll be taking even more precautions. “Dentists may wear different types of masks, like the N95 masks which a lot of folks may’ve heard about which is actually a respirator, or they may use traditional masks along with a face shield,” Chaffin says. “They’ll take a little bit longer to clean up afterward as well.”
Until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, Chaffin says there will always be some degree of risk with any type of contact, but dentists are doing all they possibly can to ensure the health of their patients. “We really suggest that while it’s safe to visit a dentist, for very high-risk people, they have to look at everything they do within their lives and assess that risk,” Chaffin says. “If somebody has some type of disease and they’re really high risk, they will want to put off visiting the dentist as well as doing a lot of things that they normally would have done in the past.”
There are about 1,700 practicing dentists in Iowa who operate out of around 2,500 offices and many of them have already reopened. “Other offices have waited,” Chaffin says. “They had a May 18th number in their heads so they’re trying to get all the new PPE that they need and they’re training their staff on new procedures. We’re seeing some offices open last Friday, some throughout this week, but many are waiting until May 18th, next Monday.”
Most dentists in Iowa are also small businesses and Chaffin says while a few have permanently closed during the pandemic, the majority are either open now or will be soon.