COVID-19: 3 Things to Remember When Closing and Reopening Your Dental Practice
As coronavirus disease progresses throughout the U.S., dental health care professionals are following state and local guidelines to treat only emergency cases. This is part of a coordinated effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and alleviate the burden on hospital and emergency departments. For many dentists, the decision to temporarily close their practice was unimaginable up until this point, but it’s the reality they now face as they struggle to balance operating expenses and lost revenue.
On March 18, the ADA provided its members and their patients detailed guidance on what to consider dental emergencies and nonemergency dental care. The difficulties of maintaining business operations are compounded by federal guidelines for social distancing, which have been extended until April 30. Perhaps instead of shuttering completely, you decide to keep one operatory functional for emergency procedures and have only certain staff members on call. The choice is yours under these guidelines.
While the ADA provides helpful practice management resources for COVID-19, they don’t detail product- and equipment-specific protocols for opening and closing your practice. Thankfully, there’s a concise resource, “Dental Clinic Temporary Closure & Reopening Instructions,” from DENTALEZ that can help practices prioritize critical tasks.
3 Things to Do When Closing and Opening
Even if you’ve already closed your practice in the last 14 days, there are some areas you may want to focus on to properly shut down for the longer term.
1. Maintain Your Utility Room
Before you lock the door to your office, you’ll first need to open the utility room for maintenance of compressors, dry vacuums, and wet vacuums.
DENTALEZ advises that you follow your vacuum instructions carefully to properly clean the unit before shutting it down. For instance, the company’s Ramvac dry vacuum requires users to flush all the vacuum lines with hot water and SlugBuster line cleaner. After flushing, the vacuum system runs for several minutes with an HVE open in the clinic, which helps clean out the vacuum lines and the trunk line.
If the clinic has a wet ring pump, the lines should also be flushed. The solids collector bowl at the pump intake should be cleaned, and the water supply to the pump should be turned off to prevent possible flooding.
An advantage of Ramvac air compressors is that they’re oil-less and will be fine to shut down for an extended period of time, DENTALEZ explains. The company also developed an Owl Touch dental control panel with a Master Shutdown that turns off the entire utility room when activated.
If you’re shutting down completely, it’s acceptable to turn off the high voltage to the utility room at this time.
Reopening: DENTALEZ advises that certain vacuum pumps may need to be purged when the clinic starts back up. When the vacuum sits for an extended time, the pump can collect extra oil and may sound loud.
2. Run water and air through your delivery system
Delivery units are a critical point of infection control and prevention, and need to be included in your opening and closing to-do list.
If the clinic runs on city water, simply turn off the water source at the delivery unit, DENTALEZ advises. You may choose to turn off the water to the clinic at the master water control.
If the clinic uses bottled water, empty the water bottles and reinstall them. Turn the water bottle toggle to “ON” and then purge the system of all the water through each handpiece tubing and syringe. Then use the flush valve so that the water lines are purged with air to dry them out. Also remember to run air through the tubing to dry the lines out and prevent biofilm from growing in both the lines and valves.
When it’s time to reopen, fill the water bottles and run each handpiece tubing, syringe, and flush valve to purge the air out of the system.
3. Handpiece maintenance
For its own Star handpieces, DENTALEZ recommends cleaning each device with isopropyl alcohol and then sterilizing them. The company also recommends cleaning the auto-chuck mechanism with its Junk-Out High-Speed Chuck Cleaner. This will eliminate debris that forms inside the mechanism of high-speed handpieces from everyday use and sterilization.
After sterilization, make sure the handpiece is completely dry. Remember that if there’s moisture in the bags or in the sterilizer, there is moisture in the handpiece. It’s recommended to increase the dry time to insure dryness, but if that’s not possible, load fewer handpieces into the sterilizer per cycle. Finally, store the handpiece in a clean, dry, and cool place at room temperature, so it will be ready to go when your practice reopens.
In this time of an unprecedented health crisis, everyone is trying to find a new “normal.” While downtime allows, consider ways to make your practice more efficient and safer. The designs of your air compressor unit, delivery unit, and handpiece can help mitigate the transmission of infection disease for patients and providers. Learn more from DENTALEZ’s COVID-19 resources.
Hopefully when this crisis has passed, your practice will see an influx of patients due for non-emergency procedures and checkups. When your practice is ready to be fully operational again, you’ll be glad you took this time to make sure the “workhorses” of your practice are up for the task.