The current pandemic has brought about major devastation globally. COVID-19, a deadly virus that causes acute respiratory distress syndrome at the worst end of the spectrum, and flu-like symptoms including fever, cough, breathlessness, and nasal congestion on the other, has caused millions of deaths to date. The currently known ways of the spread of this virus include transfer through aerosols, droplets, and close contact transmission, amongst other things. This means that closed spaces, including dental clinics, can be a dramatic source of transmission of the virus to dentists and dental staff; and they are indeed at high risk for possible infection.
Keeping that in mind, the dental practices were shut down for a while. But now that they are open again, there are certain measures that need to be followed to ensure the safety of the staff and the patient; because in the current situation, it is extremely likely that patients who are infectious will still be visiting the dental practices for treatment.
Most dental procedures include close contact with the patients. And since a dentist is concerned with the oral cavity, the chances of infection by droplets or aerosol are extremely high. CDC has issued guidelines to keep the dental staff safe during treatment. Personal protective equipment or PPEs are a must for all those associated with the clinic. These include not only masks and gloves, but also face shields, and surgical gowns to prevent the virus from coming in contact with the skin or clothing. The masks should be changed between patients. Gloves do not eliminate the need for proper handwashing and sanitization; hand hygiene should be followed properly after every treatment.
A thorough history must be taken from each patient. Dentists should ask patients about any symptoms they might be experiencing, or might have experienced; or if they have traveled recently, etc. It is also important to take the temperature of every patient coming into the dental clinic. The waiting room should have chairs at a distance of 6 ft. apart.
The dental practice should be cleaned thoroughly; not just at the start and end of each day, but also after every patient. All surfaces in a dental practice, including the chair, the light, the countertops, and drawer handles are thoroughly disinfected. The non-disposable tools should be sterilized after use each time; and the disposable tools and items are to be discarded immediately after one use.
Finally, it is important to note that some dental procedures tend to produce more aerosol than others, so it might be prudent to avoid such procedures; performing emergency procedures and non-aerosol producing procedures might be the way to go for a while.