When Rutgers School of Dental Medicine clinics in Newark and South Jersey will reopen on June 15 for non-emergency care, new safety precautions will be in effect to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The new procedures follow Center of Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, with some additional safeguards.
“We’re making it so that people feel comfortable being here,’’ said Dr. Michael Conte, Senior Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs. “The comfort level for many is getting better, but it’s a matter of change and change takes time to get used to.’’
Dentists are at a higher risk than many other healthcare providers because saliva can be expelled into the air during drilling and other treatment, said Dr. Conte. The novel coronavirus is spread through droplets shed from the mouth and nose of an infected person.
Several extra measures will protect both patients and providers, he added. To reduce risk, students and faculty providers will be working in pairs with one assigned to treat the patient and the other to remove aerosols with high speed suction devices. Third and fourth-year students will alternate roles each day.
Clinical areas where aerosols are created will be defined with signs at their entrances. No one will be allowed to entire those areas without required PPE, such as N95 respirator masks. All equipment and treatment areas will be sanitized or sterilized between visits. High touch surface in non-treatment areas, such as waiting rooms and elevators, will be frequently sanitized as well. To prolong the use of PPE and prevent shortages, RSDM is working with the Rutgers Environmental Health Services to explore ways of sterilizing PPE between use.
Patients will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before treatment, including a call prior to their appointments, when they’ll be questioned about symptoms. If they are symptomatic upon arrival, they’ll be directed to their primary care physician. Patients will be limited to one guardian, interpreter or caregiver during visits and will also receive a follow-up call two days after appointments to check for symptoms.
All faculty students, residents and staff will be screened each day for symptoms. “It they don’t feel well, they should stay home,’’ said Dr. Conte.