Dentists fear reopening, ‘won’t go back without proper PPE’


"Dentists aren't going to go back to work until they have the proper PPE"

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Dental professionals voiced concerns to KOIN 6 News about opening their offices up next week following Thursday’s announcement from Governor Kate Brown that gave the green light for dentists to start seeing patients again.

Barry Taylor, the president of the Oregon Dental Association said he wants everyone to know that dentists will only open offices if they’re confident they have everything they need to protect staff and patients.

“Many Oregonians have been hoping for this news because it means we can now begin to think about scheduling that much-needed dental work,” said Brown this week.

While many Oregonians might be glad they’ll be able to schedule a teeth cleaning, Thursday’s news came as a shock to a lot of dental professionals. KOIN 6 News spoke with dental assistant Brittnei Jackson, one of the dozens of assistants and hygienists who called, emailed, or sent Facebook messages to the newsroom with fears about going back to work.

“It’s just really scary to get back in there. We’re not talking about just protecting the patient that we’re with, you know, it’s every patient walking through that office the rest of the day,” said Jackson.

“Is there or isn’t there a hard recommendation for the type of PPE that dentists in Oregon are going to need to use and their hygienists going back on May first?” asked Jackson.

“So we’re working with the Oregon Health Authority as to what those guidelines are going to be,” said Taylor. He said Governor Brown’s team gave the Dental Association about 48 hours notice before making the announcement. He said state dental experts immediately started working on guidelines for reopening.

“We are taking every step imaginable to make sure that not just dentists, but our staff, our hygienists, our assistants, the people at the front desk also — we want them going back to a safe environment,” said Taylor.

He admitted he’s nervous about the current availability of PPE, and said, bottom line, Oregon’s dentists will have what they need to ensure the safety of patients and staff before opening their doors.

“That will be one of the things that’s a hurdle to get over and it’s going to be one of the things that limits how fast dentistry can come back,” said Taylor. “Dentists aren’t going to go back to work until they have the proper PPE.”

Taylor said the Dental Association has a meeting scheduled for Monday morning with the Oregon Health Authority. The OHA will be working with them to create solid guidelines to roll out to dentists next week.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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