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The Importance of PPE and Communication as Dentists Welcome Back Patients

The Importance of PPE and Communication as Dentists Welcome Back Patients

Needless to say, it’s been a rough year and a half for everybody. Families and businesses, rural and urban—COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on the U.S. and the world. It has highlighted the extraordinary efforts of healthcare workers, teachers, and other front-line workers while also impacting those who didn’t make the headlines. Somewhere near the top of that list are dental practices.

In March and April of 2020, as COVID-19 was reaching its first crescendo, an estimated 97% of all U.S. dental practices were either shut down or only open for emergency procedures. In August 2020, the World Health Organization urged the public to avoid routine dental work or aesthetic treatments during the coronavirus pandemic if transmission rates were high in their area.1

Yet the irony is that an October 2020 report in The Journal of the American Dental Association found that fewer than one percent of dentists nationwide had tested COVID-19 positive and 99% of dentists were using enhanced infection control procedures such as screening protocols and enhanced disinfection practices when treating patients.2

Despite the efforts of the American Dental Association and other industry advocates to reassure the public that a trip to the dentist involved low risk, many patients have opted to err on the side of caution, canceling routine and non-emergency treatment.

Source: Restoring Patients Confidence in Elective Health Care4

The good news - a November 2020 ADA survey showed that 72% of patients were ready to go back to the dentist, 14% would be willing to go with assurance from the dental office or national authorities, and the last 14% were not comfortable returning at all.3

Even better - a recent survey of all healthcare patients by the Boston Consulting Group indicated that providers, including dentists, can influence their patients’ willingness to reschedule by addressing top conditions and concerns.4 So what can dental providers do to help reassure patients and get back to some degree of normalcy?

Putting patients and staff at ease

Based on the BCG study, the most important thing a dental practice can do is to prepare to resume a full patient load. This challenge is multi-faceted and depends on things like staffing requirements and cash flow. But on a deeper level, it’s about instilling confidence among staff and helping patients feel at ease to return to the dentist’s office. In other words, dental providers must reassure patients as well as their staff that they are taking the proper precautions and have the PPE on hand to safeguard the health of those who visit and work in the office.

As noted earlier, even before COVID-19, dentists placed a priority on infection control, a fact well-understood by those working in the profession but maybe not so well understood by the general public. Communicating that message to patients is the critical first step to getting back to pre-COVID-19 patient levels. The California Dental Association offers these tips5:

• Inform patients of updated safety protocols by using emails, newsletters, and social media to let them know what to expect when they arrive for their appointment.

• Utilize your social media platforms to provide a glimpse into the office's daily operations.

• Use teledentistry as an alternate way to stay connected to patients and provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Offer oral hygiene and health tips that remind patients that their health is always the priority.

Rebuilding confidence in the supply chain

While dental practice staff are well aware of the safety protocols in place, the PPE shortages during the height of the pandemic were both devastating and highly publicized. Ambulatory, as well as acute care providers, will have to work hard to rebuild the trust that was damaged by supply chain disruptions. This is true for the largest hospital systems and the smallest rural dentist offices. Hygienists, receptionists, and dental assistants must be reassured that they will be protected.

Source: Health Policy Institute and American Dental Association, industry update; February 15, 2021 6

Suppliers have recently made significant improvements in terms of adding domestic manufacturing capacity, dramatically increasing available domestic supply of Surgical N95 respirators. 

Overall, the supply of gowns, N95 respirators, procedure masks and face shields has improved dramatically since last year. The increased capacity can help rebuild confidence in the supply chain – and with much of that new capacity being developed in the U.S., ambulatory care providers can start diversifying their suppliers using domestic sourcing. This is a good practice even for the smallest players, as it could help manage risk during the next crisis. 

Patients are now returning to the dentist’s office. Some will require a bit more coaxing and reassuring than others. Having a strong PPE supplier with a solid domestic manufacturing footprint can help ensure that dental practices have the proper protection needed to take on more patients as they return to a more normal patient load.

As a trusted partner, Honeywell continues to invest in manufacturing capacity, innovative solutions and supply chain relationships needed to help protect healthcare professionals and their patients—no matter the situation. As you welcome back patients, we stand ready to help. Talk to your authorized Honeywell distributor about how we can support your PPE protocols. Together, we’ll rebuild your supply and confidence, enabling you to move forward.

Sources:

1ADA 'respectfully yet strongly disagrees' with WHO guidance recommending delay of dental care; American Dental Association, website; August 12, 2020

https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2020-archive/august/ada-respectfully-yet-strongly-disagrees-with-who-guidance-recommending-delay-of-dental-care

2Estimating COVID-19 prevalence and infection control practices among US dentists; Journal of the American Dental Association; November 1, 2020

https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/ADA%20News/Files/ADAJ_1930.pdf?la=en

3California Dental Association. August 27, 2020. Accessed October 15, 2020. https://www.cda.org/Home/News-and-Events/Newsroom/Article-Details/ada-consumer-research-study-shows-most-patients-comfortable-with-returning-to-dentist

4Scott, J.; Labno, A.; Rappl, B.; Kellar, J.; Rosenberg, B. Restoring Patients Confidence in Elective Health Care; Boston Consulting Group, research study; May 27, 2020

https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/elective-health-care-post-covid-19

5How to get patients back in the dental office amid the COVID-19 pandemic; California Dental Association, web article; June 25, 2020

https://www.cda.org/Home/News-and-Events/Newsroom/Article-Details/how-to-get-patients-back-in-the-dental-office-amid-the-covid-19-pandemic

6COVID-19: Economic Impact on Dental Practices Week of February 15 Results; Health Policy Institute and American Dental Association, industry update; February 15, 2021

https://surveys.ada.org/reports/RC/public/YWRhc3VydmV5cy02MDJjMjg3ZmRkMDg4YTAwMTE2ZmVlYjItVVJfM3BaeGhzWm12TnNMdjB4