Concerns about coronavirus loom as dental offices prepare to reopen

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana’s dental offices are preparing to open back up next week.

The state could allow dentists with proper personal protective equipment to start as early as Monday.

However, the Indiana Dental Association told CBS4 some of the tools used in dentistry make it difficult to keep patients and staff safe from the coronavirus.

That’s one reason why the IDA has its own COVID-19 task force.

Steve Hollar, Vice President of the Indiana Dental Association and Chair of the IDA’s COVID-19 Task Force, explains that aerosol tools, like a drill, are necessary to maintain oral health.

“Those aerosols have been around for a long long time it’s not like they are brand new but clearly with COVID-19 the transmission is through the air,” said Hollar.

He said proper personal protective equipment like N-95 masks are mandatory to keep staff safe.

“Offices if they don’t have the PPE and they don’t have the necessary equipment to open and we are not quite there with supply chain then they should not be opening their doors,” explained Hollar. “If they have the right equipment, we are good to go.”

“So, who will oversee that?” asked CBS4 reporter Kayla Sullivan. “Are we just kind of trusting that they will be good people and do the right thing or will there be someone that’s making sure that they will have the proper protective gear?”

“The oversight is multilayered,” explained Hollar.

He said OSHA, CDC and the American Dental Association will oversee workplace safety.

Sullivan asked about patient safety.

“If aerosol tools allow the virus to be present in the air, how can patients avoid getting it at their appointment?”

“I’m not sure we have all of the answers,” replied Hollar. “I think it is a fair question and I think the science is going to be evolving.”

Hollar suggests testing in dental offices.

“If we had a one minute test or some testing, clearly we can assure you as the next patient that the environment that you are coming into is clear,” said Hollar.

Depite potential risks, Hollar said he agrees with the state allowing dental services to start up again on Monday. He believes they are taking extreme precautions and dental services are critical to human health.

“A lot of patients build up a lot of tarter plaque which is a direct result to heart health,” said Hollar.

He said patients can expect a slow return to dentistry even though offices are technically allowed to open Monday.

“And dentists know too, if this comes back we may be put on the bench again and we don’t want that to happen,” said Hollar.

For more information about how dental offices can prevent the spread of COVID-19, click here.

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