It was always such a simple thing, going to the dentist…. Make an appointment, show up, have your treatment, pay and leave. When I would bring my kids, I sat in the operatory and chatted with the dentist or the hygienist who was seeing them. Things were loose and relaxed. Oh sure, since the early eighties dental healthcare personnel have been wearing surgical masks and gloves and done an amazing job at infection control. But those things have been around so long it was seamless and easy. You never thought about it! Then BAMM! Covid-19 hit and all bets are off!
Hi, my name is Eleanor. I have been a registered dental hygienist since 1980. For the past several years I have been lucky enough to hold the position of Clinic Director at Dental Associates of Walpole. Along with all the doctors and staff here, since February 2020 I have seen and done things that I never imagined before.
Closing down our office to all but extreme emergencies was a reality none of us could have imagined prior to March 15, 2020. But based on recommendations received from the CDC, the American Dental Association and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, it was the right thing to do to ensure the health and safety of our patients and staff. Walking around on March 16th and telling all our staff that there would be no office for the foreseeable future was surreal. After that figuring out exactly HOW to close down was the big problem! What to do about water lines, sterilizers, all the equipment that sits on chargers…. Not to mention, how do we call and cancel hundreds of appointments for our patients?
For several days we worked as a team going through equipment and making it safe to sit unused for a while, contacting patients, and explaining the situation to them. Reassuring them that we would be here for them if they had an emergency, just like always. It definitely took a village to remember everything, right down to stopping the mail!
And then like the rest of the world, we waited, and waited and waited. And we watched with great sorrow what was happening in our country and all over the world. While we weren’t working our staff and doctors kept in touch through video conferences, text messaging emails, etc.. It was great to jump into a ZOOM conference and share what everyone was learning about Covid-19 and about all the different ways it was going to change dentistry. Most of us attended so many webinars over those six weeks that we are all set with our continuing education credits for quite a while!
Did I mention that dentistry was going to change as a result of the virus? Because it certainly has. I walk through the office now and hardly recognize anyone through all their PPE. We tell our patients to bring a sweater because we have to keep the air conditioning pumping! We are required to keep the numbers of people in the office low, so unfortunately, we can’t allow all the older pediatric patients to bring their parents and siblings with them. Now we face chat with mom after the appointment!
Appointments also have to be longer to allow for time to get patients in from the parking lot, our new waiting room! This means that we can’t see as many people in a day, another frustrating item for them and us. But once they are here I guarantee that they are getting the best care possible.
Luckily, we really have the most amazing patients and they have adapted to all our necessary changes. Our staff is doing so much and working so hard to make sure that their appointments and dental care meet the highest standards. Sometimes a patient will get upset with us about a change we can’t control, thankfully that is a rare occurrence. Everywhere in the world people are just doing the best they can to make life easier and safer for everyone.
I know that things will continue to change in dentistry and our personal lives as we learn more about this virus. I am so thankful that the people I work with are strong enough and smart enough to adapt to all the changes as they come along. I always tell people, “this is how we have to do it today; I promise that it will change again!”.
Stay safe everyone!
By Eleanor Hoyle, R.D.H