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Some local dental hygienists worried about returning to work amid pandemic

HOUSTON – Dental offices in Houston and across the state are now open for routine care but some dental workers are worried about going back to work. There are new guidelines in place to protect patients and staff, but still, there is a concern.

You can understand why dental hygienists would be worried about work. They spend hours in close proximity to people’s mouths cleaning teeth with tools that spray saliva everywhere.

“Our main concern is the fact that when you go to the dental office pretty much everything generates aerosol,” said Janessa Bock, president-elect Texas Dental Hygienist Association. “That can stay in the air anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.”

New dental safety protocols in place include a mandatory screening of patients, sanitation guidelines, and proper personal protective equipment. But, many dental offices donated to hospitals when they were instructed to close in March.

“Most of their offices, 78 % of them, are not prepared to open because they don’t have the proper masks, gowns gloves,” Bock said. “We want to make sure protocols are in place, proper PPE is in place to protect all dental professionals as well as our patients.”

Dental visits will be different for now too. To prevent aerosol spread, hygienists will now only use the metal tools like the polishing handpiece tool.

The CDC is recommending dental services should be limited to emergency visits only.

“We want to get back to work, we are healthcare providers,” Bock said. “But, it’s important that we go back safely so we don’t create another avenue of spread for COVID19.”

Because of new safety requirements, you may have to pay more at your next dentist visit to cover the cost of PPE. The American Dental Association says those fees will be at the discretion of each dentist.