If you haven’t read the previous blog called So Many Changes in Dentistry, check it out before reading this one since this is a continuation of the previous one.
So to follow along with the previous blog and the different rules set out by the two governing bodies, making dental hygienists adhere to much more stringent regulations than dentists, it created a conflict and a challenge as to what to do. When I first heard about the CDHO (the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario) statement, my first concern was: if I do what I am told is safe by my governing body, but my hygienists have additional PPE that I don’t, then there is a perceived inconsistency when our patients come back to our office. I thought to myself if I was a patient coming back post-COVID and still very nervous and worried about my safety and my family’s safety, what would my first thought be when my hygienist is wearing an N95 mask, eye protection, face shield and a surgical gown, but my dentist looks the same as before COVID? What would I think is right? What would I think is safe? And would I be comfortable with this discrepancy between my dental care providers? And I am guessing, many of our patients would at the very least wonder, and more likely than not, worry about this incongruency as well.
As PPE is in extreme shortage and not only very difficult to get but also extremely expensive, I had a dilemma as to how to re-open safely. When my regulatory body changed their mind and relaxed the rules around PPE, most dentists cancelled their orders for N95 masks, face shields, and surgical gowns, as these were no longer required. We were told we could work in regular scrubs and level 3 masks, which is something that I have always worked with anyways. Since I had already started getting quotes from contractors regarding doors on all treatment rooms and changes to the reception area, I decided to continue with the renovations for a few reasons. One was a simple fact that these changes would create more patient safety and privacy for our patients, which is always a good thing. And two, since there is still no vaccine or proper treatment for COVID and the second wave is fully expected, I felt that anything I can do now to reduce the spread and create more control in the future is a valuable long-term plan for my office. And as those thoughts crossed my mind, I realized that while other dentists were cancelling their PPE orders in masses, I had a rare opportunity to not only keep my order but also to increase my own supply of PPE. Since others were turning it away, my supplier was able to deliver PPE in large quantities very quickly to my office. My supply now outnumbered my demand for it so I was prepared for the second wave or another surprise the future had to offer.
And then the CDHO came out with their guidelines, sending dentists for another frenzy and search for PPE once again. As I fully support all dentists following their governing body guidelines to go back to previously accepted level 3 masks and scrubs, and I do believe that CDHO should have revised their guidelines to allow more cohesiveness between dental hygienists and dentists, I see a new possibility. When faced with a choice to make when it comes to patient safety, and the safety of my team, my family and myself, without the certainty of who is right when it comes to PPE, the choice, at least to me, is obvious: you go with the higher standard.
Whether some feel it’s overkill, and others think it is excessive, I believe that our patients will be grateful to know we are doing everything possible to ensure their safety at all times when in my dental office. And to be transparent, I feel this is the right decision all the time, but especially when I come home and hug my daughter.