After two months of performing only emergency procedures, dentist offices in Illinois are now fully reopening.
But the experience will be very different — for both patients and dentists, many of whom are still struggling to get the personal protective equipment they need.
“Dentists were not in the ‘essential’ category,” said Dr. Terri Tiersky, president of the Chicago Dental Society. “We were not in line to get any of the PPE that comes from FEMA or IEMA (the Illinois Emergency Management Agency).”
As it is for other health care professions, the protective equipment requirement for dentists is much more strict because of the pandemic. Dentists are now wearing scrubs, disposable gowns, masks and face shields.
“All of this PPE is very hard to get,” Tiersky said. “A lot of it is backordered and we don’t know when we’re going to get it.”
Patients visiting their dentists will also have a new routine.
At Tierksy’s practice, they’re asking patients to wait in their cars and call upon arrival to limit the number of people in waiting rooms. When they do enter the office, they’ll get a temperature check and fill out additional paperwork.
Within dental work, there’s a potential for spreading harmful aerosols, Tiersky said, with drilling teeth and spraying water that can allow germs to spread more easily. To help avoid contamination, her office is using air filters and putting a lot of time between scheduled appointments.
Tiersky and Dr. Clark Stanford, the UIC College of Dentistry dean, join “Chicago Tonight” in discussion.