Safety is our top priority! Learn more about how we are protecting you.

Dr. Niraj D. Patel

How we are protecting you: Safety in Our Dental Office

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How we’re minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission

In August 2020 the World Health Organization cautioned that non-essential dental care should be delayed in areas of community transmission like most parts of Maryland. We believe that our patients are smart enough to make their own decisions about whether we’re doing enough to keep them safe. We can say that we feel absolutely safe coming to work. Below is what we’re doing. You be the judge.

Aerosol Controls:

  • The most effective way to reduce aerosols capable of transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus is for everyone to wash their hands frequently and to cover their mouth and nose. In our treatment room, all of our clinicians have their mouths and noses triple covered (N95 fitted mask, surgical mask, face shield). Our clerical team members and people accompanying patients are wearing masks at all times. Thus, the patients being treated are the only source of potentially contaminated aerosols inside our premises.
  • We treat a maximum of five patients at the same time. They are physically distanced (4 of our treatment rooms are always empty), and doors and shower curtains protecting the entrance to our treatment rooms function as physical barriers to reduce the spread of aerosols.
  • At the end of each procedure, the patient dons their mask and is escorted by an environmental assistant to the checkout area, where physical distancing measures are enforced. At that point the patient is not dispersing aerosols.
  • Each treatment room is thoroughly cleaned between patients. The clinicians who were in contact with the patient and the treatment room are then fogged with hypochlorous acid (HOCl). HOCl is known to eradicate the coronavirus, other virii, bacteria, mycobacteria, spores, and fungi within 15 seconds. We use an ultra-low fogger, which disperses the HOCl into the air and acts on all surfaces. According to a 2018 article in the British Dental Journal: “Hypochlorous acid is one of the most natural and effective known biocides known to man. It disinfects 200 to 300 times better than bleach and is 100% safe.” It is so safe that it is used to clean wounds on premature infants with no ill effects.
  • Doctor treatment rooms go empty for at least 40 minutes between patients.
  • An extraoral high speed evacuation machine is now available for use by doctors for dental procedures that generate a vast amount of aerosols. Alternatively, Zyris (formerly known as Isolite, a suctioning mouthpiece) can be used inside the mouth to capture aerosol particles.
  • An extraoral high speed evacuation machine is now available for use in one hygiene treatment room. It enables the use of the cavitron machine to perform a deeper dental cleaning, as well as polishing the teeth after a cleaning. We are awaiting 3 more machines for use in the other hygiene rooms.

Scheduling:

  • The first hour of each day is reserved to treat patients over 65, or who are immunocompromised.
  • Appointments are staggered.
  • To follow social distancing recommendations we’ve reduced the number of patients in our office. At any given time we are using only half of our treatment rooms. A maximum of two doctors and three hygienists is simultaneously treating patients.
  • In order to preserve PPE and prevent cross-contamination a doctor is assigned solely to checking hygiene patients. They are not performing dental procedures simultaneously.
  • For the same reasons, a doctor performing procedures on patients is not simultaneously treating a patient in another treatment room.
  • To comply with our extended infection control protocol, for every two patients one dental assistant is assigned the role of Environmental Assistant.

Patients:

  • Patients wear their own mask while in our premises, unless asked to remove it by a clinician.
  • Patients are asked COVID-19 pre-screening questions upon arrival in our parking lot. Before entering our office patient body temperature and pulse oxygenation measurements are taken. If a patient’s answers or readings are indicative of a possible infection, their appointment is rescheduled to at least two weeks in the future.
  • Patients are escorted through our office by an Environmental assistant or a doctor.
  • In the treatment room, patients wash their hands for 20 seconds, and rinse with a hydrogen peroxide solution for 20 seconds.
  • If waiting in line to check out, patients are standing in designated spots marked with a footprint.

Doctors and Team Members:

  • Doctors and team members enter our office wearing masks and are pre-screened for COVID-19 at the beginning of the day, exactly like patients are.
  • After a brief morning meeting, everyone is fogged with hypochlorous acid.
  • All clinicians – doctors, dental assistants and hygienists – are using full PPE when in contact with our patients:
    • 2 masks (a fitted N95 mask, a surgical/Type 3 mask on top the N95). The surgical mask is disposed of after each patient. The N95 is used for an entire day and industrially decontaminated.
    • 2 pairs of gloves, disposed of after each patient
    • Goggles (cleaned after each patient)
    • Transparent face shield (cleaned after each patient and disposed of at the end of the day)
    • Cap (fogged after each patient and disposed of or laundered at the end of the day).
    • Gown (fogged after each patient and disposed of when soiled or at the end of the day).
  • All clerical team members are wearing cloth masks, and are interacting with patients through a plexiglass window.
  • After treating each patient, all clinical workers are being fogged with Hypochlorous acid (HOCl) to kill any aerosolized germs that may have gathered on their gowns, face shields and caps.

Social Distancing Controls:

  • At any time of day four of our treatment rooms are empty.
  • When in the office premises, everyone wears a mask at all times.
  • Some team members with clerical jobs are working from home to reduce the number of people in our premises.
  • Patients are following strict pathways around the office to reduce the likelihood of contact with other patients.
  • The number of people in treatment rooms is limited to 4 – doctor, dental assistant, patient and one caretaker, or dental hygienist, patient, caretaker, and doctor performing hygiene check. If you are a parent with many children or a patient with special needs who requires extra help, please call our office at (301) 690-9494 to coordinate special arrangements.
  • In our team members lounge, frequented during breaks and lunchtime, team members enter without PPE and keep physical distancing from each other.

Environmental Controls:

  • We have eliminated paper materials in treatment rooms, consultation rooms, waiting room, and checkout area.
  • We have eliminated toys and magazines from the waiting room.
  • We have implemented touchless credit card payment
  • Forms to be filled out by patients are no longer printed out on paper and filled out in our office. Forms are exchanged via PDF, or printed out on paper by the patient and mailed.
  • By October we will finally have implemented a secure patient portal through which patient forms can be seamlessly filled out and uploaded to our office. We apologize for how long this is taking, it is beyond our control.

COVID-19 Testing:

Due to incomplete information about of COVID-19 testing, our practice is NOT relying on testing to assume that anyone is virus-free. For our collective safety, we’re treating everyone — team members, patients, and everybody who enters our premises — as if they are potentially infectious. We are, however, assuming that those who test positive for the virus are actually infected, and not allowing them into our premises until they have been medically cleared.