PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — You need your teeth cleaned. Maybe you have a toothache. Some dental offices in Oregon are open but many remain closed for now until they get more personal protective equipment.
Dr. Todd Beck with South Waterfront Dental ordered special filtration machines to suck the aerosols out of the air that can be sprayed during various procedures. He’s still waiting for that equipment to arrive and plans to re-open to regular patients on May 11, even though the temporary halt on non-emergency medical and dental procedures was lifted May 1.
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Gov. Kate Brown’s Deputy Communications Director Charles Boyle said the governor’s original order was designed to conserve PPE for frontline health care workers.
“Now that PPE procurement has improved, the order could be lifted so that Oregonians could receive health care treatment without further delay—but only with appropriate safeguards for employees and patients in place,” Boyle said.
Dentists who spoke with KOIN 6 News said they are not about the take any risks with patients or employees. They believe new safety guidelines, which include the complete sanitizing of work areas between every patient who visits, will make Oregon dental offices safer and more efficient in the long run.
Several dentists said they donated their personal protective equipment to area hospitals and were still waiting for new supplies. State guidelines require dentists to have at least a 2-week supply of PPE before they can re-open to non-emergency patients.
Protecting patients and employees from disease has always been an important part of dentistry, but COVID-19 creates new challenges as some procedures produce air particles.
“The aerosols that we create artificially with procedures, there really isn’t a consensus scientifically yet on whether the virus is spread that way,” Beck told KOIN 6 News. “So we are being over abundant with our caution right now.”
There are some offices that have enough PPE to open. But it’s a slow process because many hygienists and other furloughed employees are being worked back into their schedules. Many dentists said they are treating this as a soft opening and ask for patience from their patients.