All citizens in our communities are encourage to make sure they get tested for COVID-19
By Robert Shorey
Since July 5, most dentists in our Santa Clara County communities have been able to open their offices up to about 65 percent capacity with upgraded safety systems. Getting patients back into regular care will prevent ongoing dental and systemic disease from progressing during the county-wide shelter in place.
Early in the pandemic, dentistry recognized the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 and we worked to determine essential changes needed to keep our patients and staff safe. While the understanding of the complete pathology of this disease is still a scientific work in progress, the dental profession had already practiced universal prevention precautions as a standard of patient care since the early 1980s due to the AIDS crisis. COVID-19 added additional respiratory infection concerns for prevention of aerosol viral spread when providing care in close proximity to our patient’s pulmonary exhaust. Unlike most other diseases plaguing mankind like measles, flu and hepatitis, many people contracting and spreading COVID-19 are asymptomatic (they don’t show signs of having the virus) during the initial phase of the disease, which can be the most virulent period for spread of the virus to others.
Because of the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers, dentistry supports social distancing protocols and mask wearing by our patients in public. Most offices have adopted ICU standards of PPE (medical grade personal protective equipment, masks and shields) as well as environmental changes to treatment rooms utilizing such controls as UV-C virus killing lamps, hypochlorous acid fogging of treatment room aerosols, hepa/charcoal/UV air purifiers, central air filtering improvement and even negative pressure rooms for offices that are engaged in considerable surgical procedures. Prior to COVID-19 the disinfection of surfaces was already at high standards in dentistry to prevent the spread of disease through surface contacts. With these changes dentist offices are one of the safer environments to prevent the spread.
While we all hope the world’s top scientific minds will be able to create a vaccine, we need to be mindful that the coronavirus is related to the common cold virus and no vaccine has ever been devised for the common cold to date. We are optimistic with time the current vaccine trials will prove effective to prevent continued widespread infection. But this may take at least a year. In the meantime, we must use what we understand works and is available today. Testing is a technology useful to identify carriers of the virus, both symptomatic and asymptomatic. Just as our country surged the production of ventilators to assist in treating our critically ill COVID-19 patients we need to surge the production of testing systems. Some medical colleagues have resisted the concept of adopting widespread testing for a variety of reasons ranging from inadequate supply of testing materials to assuming error rates of rapid RNA PCR tests are too high, even though this information suggests error is related to sampling and can be minimized with frequency of testing.
The fact is most error in rapid testing is not about the technology of the testing units but about the collection of poor nasopharyngeal samples. Good samples provide highly accurate results and can help us identify carriers before they circulate more virus to others and jeopardize the ability of our society to get back to work and school.
Whether you have been sheltering in place or not, it is encouraged that all citizens in our communities make sure to get tested. There are walk-in clinics and clinics available by appointment online. As noted in this column earlier, understanding this virus is ongoing and we need accurate data and information to make sound judgments concerning SIP and prevention of virus spread. The city of Morgan Hill supports testing of everyone in the community, not just those who think they might be sick. Testing is ongoing at multiple sites and it is free. If you have ever successfully had a dental impression taken, we can tell you from experience that the dental impression is harder than getting a good nasal swab sample. Get tested, keep your hands clean, avoid touching your face, and wear your mask properly so we can all get back to work and back to school sooner rather than later.
We are finding that many of our patients returning to regular dental care really needed to be seen earlier. Make sure to contact your dentist so they can review your specific health history and determine your need to get back to regular oral health care.
Robert Shorey, DDS, loved art and science growing up, thus dental medicine was a perfect match for those interests. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. After graduation, Dr. Shorey practiced in the Sacramento/Placer County area for 25 years before moving to Morgan Hill to take over the practice of Dr. Robert Moulthrop, his long-time friend and dental school roommate. He is a member of the Santa Clara County Dental Society, COVID 19 Task Force, Executive Committee Member of the Santa Clara County Dental Society and a member of the Morgan Hill Rotary Club. He and his wife, Melissa, live in Morgan Hill. Visit www.ShoreyDentistry.com.
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