Practicing Dentistry During A Pandemic

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dental office front desk with new plexiglass

There is no question that how we practice dentistry has changed (as it should) to adapt to the times. Much like airline travel, the safety and health information can sound rather tedious and boring compared to the final destination, whether it happens to be bottomless umbrella drinks on the beach or a nice, shiny white smile. However, you’re never going to get to that destination if you don’t have the safety procedures in place.

CDC poster that says keep calm and wash your hands
Keep Calm & Carry On
& Wash Your Hands

So as the captain says, while you’re busy trying to buckle in and establish whose elbow has jurisdiction over the armrest, even if you’re a frequent flyer (to the dental office), please pay special attention so that we can demonstrate the important safety features that have been put in place at Drews Dental Services. FYI, our seats have way more legroom than anything you’d ever get in row 28D.

I would like to share our new Personal Protective Protocol as a way to assure all of our patients that the only thing we will ever pass on to you will be a few bad jokes.

The More You Know…

We understand the simple act of going to the dentist can already be an anxiety provoking situation for many people. Throw in a pandemic and it’s enough to stop anyone from ever returning again. With so much information, and so many varied opinions, it can be really hard to sift through the facts and come to any reasonable conclusion.

Actions speak louder than words, so when you give a German engineer (yes, I worked on cars and airplanes before I arrived at teeth) a challenge, you might want to step out of the way, because he is going to find a solution.

Sounds like a challenge!

So our first order of business, before introducing any new equipment into the physical space, was for a complete sterilization of the entire building. During the shut down, we hired Bert Gosselin’s Maintenance Service (shout out to a local, small business that deserves everyone’s support during these challenging economic times) who deep cleaned and sanitized every nook and cranny.

Managing the Physical Environment

We understand that an “open concept” is wildly popular on HGTV; however, the dental office design is evolving into more of a department store display window style of decor to adapt with the times. When you check in with Emilie, you will notice we’ve installed a plexiglass window during the shut down (another shout out to locally owned Theriault and Co. LLC who actually build some pretty awesome open concept kitchens, too).

Even though Emilie is behind plexiglass and wearing a mask, I can guarantee she’s still flashing her famous welcoming smile. If we need your signature (or to make a copy of your insurance card, or process a payment) it might feel a bit like the drive thru at the bank. We will have you place the item in a container and pass it under the window.

And you will never have to look or reach too far to find hand sanitizer. We have it available in several places in the office and it’s easy to use. Just get a dime-sized amount in the palm of one of your hands and then rub your hands together. Be sure the gel gets distributed all over both of your hands and all of your fingers. And don’t wipe off any excess, just keep rubbing your hands together until your hands are dry.

We have also done a little re-organization of the waiting room and there are fewer seats available. We took away all of the magazines; but hey, the plan is for you to breeze in from your car to check-in to your own private room, so there’s no time to sit back and find out which actress just got re-married to their first ex-husband for the fourth time.

Are You On The Guest List?

Gaining entry into our office is actually going to feel more exclusive than one of those Hollywood celebrity nightclubs. We have a limit to the number of patients allowed in our waiting room at one time. No, we will not make you stand outside in the rain like you have to at Hannaford, desperately hoping to get the last 12-pack of toilet paper.

As soon as you arrive in the parking lot, shoot us a text and Emilie will check you in.

taking everyone's temperature at the office as part of our covid protocol
Taking temperatures is part of our new routine.

When the assistant is ready to seat you, we will text you to come on in.

Every patient who comes into our entry way is then ‘temperature triaged’ to ensure no one is running a fever (by the way, we also check every employee’s temperature each morning).

You will then be required to answer a series of questions which includes things like . . .

  • Have you recently participated in large gatherings of 50 or more people, or with people you do not know?
  • Have you or a family member traveled outside the U.S. in the last 14 days?
  • Have you or a family member had a fever in the last 14 days?

If you pass the test, congratulations, you get to advance to the next level.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

More Wardrobe Changes Than A Supermodel During NY Fashion Week!

After our training on enhanced PPE protocol, we decided to show what is required for every patient we treat!

There are plenty of careers people are drawn to because of the cool uniform, well, at least when you’re five. I have to admit that wearing scrubs has always been nice because there is literally no other job description where you can wear pajamas, while also maintaining the professional legitimacy of wearing a suit and tie (without the weekly dry cleaning bills).

The best way I can describe our COVID-19 fashion silhouette is; Hazmat suit in a butcher’s shop.

Peter and Karey showing off the clothing rack full of lab coats
Peter and Karey and a clothing rack full of lab coats

The good news is, we still get to wear scrubs underneath all of the other stuff.

And just to let you know, we take the same approach I did as a teenager; wear everything once (for each patient) and throw it in the laundry basket (the medical waste bin).

Everyone starts their ensemble with a disposable, protective hair covering. This is followed by a long lab coat that goes below the knees, giving additional protection. The lab coats are replaced for every patient we see. That’s 8 a day just for each of the hygienists. We had to get a bigger clothing rack!

Next is the N95 mask that everyone has heard about on the news. It is indeed, the rare unicorn of PPE; but like I said, you give a German engineer a challenge and he will find unicorns . . . and find them in bulk.

Over the N95 goes a face shield (disinfected after every patient) and then, of course, comes the disposable gloves.

A note about shoes; we all have a pair of shoes only used for clinical treatment that never leave the the building. These are then sprayed down with a special disinfectant at the end of every day.

So what exactly is the big deal about N95 masks? Technically, they’re called N95 Respirators, because they are more than just a “mask.” The regular blue surgical masks you’ve always seen us wear during your appointments have been approved and tested by the U.S. FDA. The N95 Respirators have been evaluated, tested and approved by NIOSH as per requirement in 42 CFR Part 84. The N95 is tight fitting and designed to have a seal which decreases the wearer’s exposure to particles, including aerosols and large droplets. It filters out 95% of airborne particles. It is required to have a “fit test”, because it cant protect you if it doesn’t fit your face. Yes, N95 respirators are literally the haute couture of PPE, they are not “off the rack” like surgical masks.

Many of you may be familiar with the Central Maine Conditioning Clinic but more in the context of Bob Brainerd’s running groups and personal training programs (that’s where I go when there’s not a social distancing pandemic going on). However, CMCC also provides occupational services for local businesses (here’s another “support local” shout out).

A fit test takes approximately 20 minutes per person and every single clinical employee has been fit tested for their N95 respirator.

I’ll admit, it’s not the most fun process to go through, but hey, it’s totally worth it. You basically put on your N95 and then a giant hood is placed over your head. A bitter substance is then sprayed into the hood (the not so fun part) and using your taste and smell for feedback, the fit is adjusted until a proper seal has been achieved – aka no more bitterness.

Dr. Peter drews getting fitted to ensure his N95 mask fits like it should
Getting fitted for my N95 mask.


In addition to the standard sterilization procedures we have always taken, we have invested in a decontamination unit for our N95 Respirators. This piece of equipment gets up to 170 degrees of dry heat and in 30 minutes it can sterilize up to 100 respirators.

This sterilizes our N95 masks!

Air Purifier

We have a Surgical Clean Air Purifier in each operatory (and one up front with Emilie). It has a UVC light, so if there is a virus in the air, it gets circulated through and the air purifier and kills it.

Surgically Clean Air

So that’s it. We have implemented significant changes to move forward practicing dentistry in a post-COVID-19 world and we hope knowing everything I’ve talked about here in this post helps you feel confident when you walk through our doors.

The very nature of performing a dental procedure in someone’s mouth has always meant prioritizing the health and safety for staff and patients above all else, in much the same way that a pilot has a list of safety checks before even considering leaving the departure gate. Not doing so is both grossly negligent and a basic moral violation of the privilege of trust that has been placed upon that provider.

Technology changes, infectious diseases mutate, but prioritizing your safety does not. I am honored to have earned your trust as a dental provider.

peter's signature

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