PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Dental work begins again on Friday after Gov. Tom Wolf lifted the ban on elective procedures during the coronavirus pandemic.
But KDKA’s Meghan Schiller learned it’s up to each licensed dentist and hygienist to decide if they’re comfortable and prepared to safely reopen.
A patient at DiBartola Dental in Bridgeville will wait in the parking lot this Friday until they’re invited inside for a temperature check and a list of screening questions.
“Make sure you don’t have a fever, you haven’t traveled out of the country and you follow all the screenings,” said Wayne DiBartola, dentist. “Because we don’t want you to come here and take your temperature and we send you home.”
DiBartola also installed sneeze guards at the front desk, blocked off his waiting area, installed new air filters and taped one-way arrows on the floor.
“For now, when we reopen on Friday, we’re only going to do hand scaling,” he said.
He’ll use what’s called an isolite, a hands-free suction and retraction unit, to suction and work to stop the spread of particles and aerosols.
“It suctions everything out and we’re going to minimizes the exposure,” DiBartola said.
The hygienists will wear shoe booties, full-length gowns, N95 masks and eventually eye shields.
Dental offices need to have this costly PPE in order to reopen this Friday. Even then, the updated guidance instructs that its a case-by-case call.
“Any licensee can make their own decision as to how they best want to practice,” said Helen Hawkey, executive director of the PA Coalition for Oral Health.
The governor’s new guidance states “procedures that create a visible spray that contain large particle droplets of water should not be performed because they are considered aerosol generating.”
Some dental offices told KDKA’s Meghan Schiller that they are not planning to reopen Friday, claiming that it’s impossible to complete a routine cleaning or root canal and not create a “visible spray.”
When it comes to the offices that do plan to reopen, Hawkey said it will cost money to secure the PPE.
“It’s going to cost $15-$27 dollars per patient,” said Hawkey. “In a situation where an appointment is taking twice as long as it would normally and it’s costing twice as much in overhead, you may see a shift in dental costs.”
The key players and stakeholders in the oral health field across the state will talk Wednesday on a private call to try to clear up any confusion over the updated guidance, according to Hawkey.