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May 15th, 2020

Some of you might remember this famous line spoken by Sir Lawrence Olivier to Dustin Hoffman in the 1976 movie “Marathon Man”. The plot revolves around a sadistic dentist and a the brother of a spy being questioned and tortured. The phrase “Is it safe?” is supposed to have a counter phrase, but Hoffman’s character doesn’t know it. At the time it became sort of a joke in many dental offices.
Well, when we do get back to work after the pandemic, I suppose that we might hear this question in earnest from many of our patients. We’ve already begun to develop and activate the systems and protocols necessary so that we can answer that question with a confident “Yes”. It’s been a challenge, but we are receiving guidance from a myriad of sources, the CDC, ADA and the NY Dental Association amongst others.
The obvious factors have to do with the much publicized use of PPE or personal protective equipment. Gloves, masks and glasses have been the standard in dentistry since the early 1980’s and, the shortly afterward, the AIDS crisis. Use of proper surface disinfectants, barriers, and sterilization procedures are nothing new to today’s offices. But there will be some changes perhaps. Some staff will chose to wear full face shields in addition to their mask. And the much touted N-95 mask might become more standard when they become available. However, the surgical masks we’ve always worn have been shown to be highly effective as well.
You’ll notice the obvious change in the reception area. Plexiglass barriers and an absence of newspapers, magazines and kids toys will be the new norm. Everything streamlined to be properly disinfected. Of course, for now, patients will be asked to wear a mask upon entering the office and until treatment begins. We request that patients come alone whenever possible to keep social distancing rules to be observed in the reception room as well. And nobody should just walk into our office without previously phoning and answering screening questions. You can phone from the parking lot on short notice if necessary.
Finally, we’ll be leaving additional time for each appointment so that we can get used to changes in our clinical procedures and to allow for proper screening before treatment and checking out after. We’ll be asking more health questions to try not to treat anyone who might be at risk of spreading the disease and asking patients to call us if they get sick within 2 weeks of treatment for proper tracking of any possible exposure to staff or other patients. It is extremely critical that you be honest with all medical and dental offices in this regard. Sometimes your inconvenience in possibly requiring a quarantine might save another person’s life.
By the way, if you look very carefully, you might spot one of our local Altamont citizens (when he was much younger) in the film as an extra on a Manhattan street. I can’t give away the identity but he might brag about it to you some day.
Continue to be safe, stay healthy, and brush and floss!

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