The coronavirus pandemic has introduced a number of challenges for dental practices. Not only did many practices close for a period of time during the first national lockdown, but with ever-changing government guidelines being introduced and uncertainty still hanging in the air, it’s been an interesting and often difficult time for dental professionals.
This is especially true in regards to infection prevention and the steps needed to control the virus, which for many practices has meant a complete change in how they operate.
To glean a better insight into how the pandemic has impacted infection control protocols, Eschmann spoke to Amy Booth, practice manager of Delph Dental Practice in Swadlincote, Derbyshire.
“I think one of the most significant changes we’ve seen in regards to infection control is attitudes among both patients and staff,” says Amy. “Before the pandemic, patients weren’t very aware of the importance of infection control, but now people are educated and more prepared, which has helped improve compliance with cross-contamination prevention in the practice. I also think staff are more aware too – of course, we always knew that infection control was paramount, but now we are definitely even more vigilant than before and really going the distance when it comes to ensuring our patients and colleagues remain safe.
“Although we did have a couple of issues with patients not wanting to adhere to rules like wearing masks at first, I’ve noticed that compliance has increased hugely over time and now we don’t have any problems at all. People want treatment and are willing to take the necessary measures to ensure they receive the care they require.
A different approach
“In terms of the biggest changes to our infection control routines, government guidance has had a huge impact on how we operate. As well as making masks mandatory in the practice, using enhanced levels of PPE and ensuring that hand sanitiser is readily available for all of our patients, we’ve also increased the amount of cleaning we perform during the day.
“One extra step we’ve taken is to ensure that patients remain outside until it is time for their appointment. This way we can help guarantee that patients are put at the minimum level of risk. We’ve also assigned separate surgeries for treatments that create aerosol and those that don’t, and we’ve implemented a Covid-19 questionnaire that helps us to screen patients the day before they arrive to ensure they are safe to visit. One great benefit of this questionnaire is that we can identify vulnerable and shielding patients and give them appointments first thing in the morning when the risk is lowest. This means we can continue to provide care even for the most vulnerable members of society who need it.
Almost back to normal
“At the outbreak of the pandemic we had to close our practice for three months. However, we steadily reopened by first providing emergency care and then heading back towards a semblance of normality by July. Of course, this meant that we had a huge increase in patients to see, including lots of new patients who were looking for treatment. It’s been a very busy time and I think a lot of that is down to the fact that we’ve had to adjust appointments in order to fit with government guidelines. We’ve extended patient appointments which means we’re currently seeing fewer people per day, but we also invested in air ventilator devices in order to help cut down the fallow time so that we could continue to run efficiently.
A helping hand from Eschmann
“Throughout all of these changes, having our systems from Eschmann has been a huge benefit. We actually purchased a new SES 2010 autoclave from Eschmann during the pandemic as our previous autoclave broke and the team were so helpful. The system is really useful and reliable and the Autolog feature means we can easily keep track of the cycles we run, which is great for our records. We also have a washer disinfector unit from Eschmann – this has really helped put peoples’ minds at ease as they know that it offers an extra level of protection. This has also been really reliable and streamlined the infection control processes for us during this time.”