Local pediatric dentist speaks on struggles to reopen

Local News

ODESSA, Texas (Big 2/ Fox 24) — Dr. James Miller found out the evening before that Governor Greg Abbot would be allowing dentistry’s to reopen last Friday.

It’s a new day for dentistry in the State of Texas, the United States, as well as the world.

Dr. James Miller

However, he has since not been able to begin his practice. Instead, he is having to renovate, change and invest in his business. The governing body, The Texas State Board on Dental Examiners, has issued these rules. According to GA-19, the requirements were:

1) Each dental office will create a covid 19 plan and provide training to dental team
2) remove all magazines, etc from waiting room
3) all team members must self monitor and report health concerns
4) place signage in the office on standard recommendations for respiratory hygiene/cough ettiquette and social distancing
5) develop and implement a phone screening process for patients
6) schedule appointments far enough apart enough to minimize possible contact between patients in waiting room
7) let patients know not to bring anyone with them to appointments unless patient requires assistance 
8) preform in office screening including temperature check upon patient arrival
9) use standard precuations
10) office must implement transmission based protocols including N95, KN95 or their substantial equivalent for all team members who will be within 6 feet of any procedure involving aerosols
11) must complete full treatment of one patient before leaving the treatment room and going to a second patient. 
12) hand scaling and low speed polishing for hygiene
13) patients should pre procedure rinse if medically safe
14) use dental isolation if aerosol producing action is being preformed
15) reduce aerosol production as much as possible
16) tell patients to contact office if they experience covid 19 symptoms with 14 days after treatment
17) team should change from scrubs and ppe to personal clothing before going home. 

“These are going to be standards for me for the rest of my career and as they teach dental students coming through. This is going to be… the new normal”

Dr. James Miller

Miller thinks these changes could be permanent, and become “the new normal” of dentistry. He reminds us that before the HIV/AIDS pandemic, dentists used to practice “wet fingered” dentistry, with no gloves and no masks.

Some of those that particularly will be difficult for Miller is the removal of toys and the lack of face-to-face contact he can have with patients. He says he relies heavily on facial queues to adequately ensure comfort to kids meeting a stranger for the first time. Now, Dr. Miller is FaceTiming his patients to allow the children to become more familiar with him.

Some of these patients are meeting me for the first time and have no idea, “who is that masked man?” It’s an opportunity not only do to the pre-COVID screening… We are going to take advantage of this new technology to communicate.

Dr. James Miller

Dr. Miller also voiced concerns for families who may not be seeking treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. He describes a vision of his practice turning in to an “ER situation” of people getting reactive care, instead of proactively seeking help.

We are asking them to come in and seek that care early enough on.

Dr. James Miller

Dr. Miller hopes to reopen his practices beginning Monday. He is confident they will do all that the governor, State Board of Dental Examiners, and his patients need him to do to remain opened.

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