Some dental offices prepare to reopen with updated COVID-19 safety measures

GIG HARBOR, Wash. -- Some dental offices in compliance with Governor Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Washington plan are getting ready to reopen. On Monday, Inslee announced dental care can resume if dentists have enough PPE supply and updated COVID-19 safety measures.

Dental offices across Washington have been closed since mid-March.

“We definitely want to get back in there and provide those necessary treatments and maintenance therapies for our patients to help them,” said Jennifer Zbaraschuk, president of the Washington Dental Hygienist Association.

“As a dentist, speaking for myself, we should have been open with the knowledge that we have and the procedures and protocol we’ve practiced for years,” said Dr. Matt Stadler, a dentist in Gig Harbor.

During the downtime, dentists like Stadler have taken emergency appointments only. They have also been deep cleaning the office, removing chairs, reading materials and decorations to help reduce exposure for when they reopen.

Several pieces of equipment are covered in plastic at Stadler’s dental office in Gig Harbor. He said Monday’s soft opening for emergency appointments helped his team adjust their plans for Tuesday’s packed schedule.

“We’ve allowed a little extra time to allow for the new guidelines as far as sterilization, maintaining the office, the plastic coverings and so forth,” said Stadler.

The Washington Dental Hygienists said most offices will require their patients to wait in their cars and wear a mask. They will receive a call or text message when their appointment is ready and be escorted inside.

“Some offices have put up plexiglass in the administrative area to help protect their office staff as well. And everyone in the office will be wearing a mask all of the time,” said Zbaraschuk.

Stadler said his office will be following those same guidelines. He further explained his staff will see one patient at a time, staggering each operatory and will be sterilized after every use. Besides those changes, Stadler said his patients will notice business will continue as usual.

“They’re used to seeing us in masks, they’re used to seeing us in gowns, they’re used to seeing the plastic coverings. If anything, it’s mostly going to be how we handle the patient flow in the office,” said Stadler.

Zbaraschuk said several offices will also require patients to go through a pre-screening questionnaire and have their temperature taken.

“Some offices have increased the filtration in their heating and cooling systems. Some have brought in air purifiers. Others have brought in external high-volume evacuation for those procedures that create aerosols,” Zbaraschuk.

Stadler said his office donated PPE supplies help support those on the front line. He said, for now, his staff does have enough of the safety gear to treat patients. The Washington Dental Association also partnered with Delta Dental to offer these supplies for any office in need.