GREAT FALLS — Dentist offices are considered essential workers - but you couldn't get a regular teeth cleaning for a while, as only emergency surgeries were handled during the initial stages of COVID-19 restrictions.
Now that we are almost to Phase Two of the reopening plan, dentists and their staff members are heading back into the office to work on regular cleanings.
A basic cleaning usually takes about 60 minutes, but now that cleaning is scheduled for 90 minutes so they can make the necessary safety measures.
We spoke with two dentists at Westside Family Dental, and they talked about the importance of safety not only to patients, but also workers. One change is that hygienists are not using their regular powered tool.
"At this time, our hygienists are not using that, they are using our hand instrument, which takes more time, but they can be just as thorough. With that in mind, our hygienist is fairly safe," explained Matthew Klinker.
They also tell us that they have had some challenges with the unusual restrictions.
"Part of the most significant thing is trying to limit patient interaction, especially in our waiting room. And so, I think a lot of dental offices were doing -- we're doing this as well -- what we would do is we would have our patients wait in their car before coming into their appointment,” said Kevin Fairhurst.
“Then we would screen them before coming into our building, whether they've traveled or if they've had a fever or sickness in their home within the last two weeks.”
“So, a lot of screening questions we've asked the patient, and then we take their temperature before they even coming into our building. And then rather than waiting in our waiting room, we'd have them go directly to their chair so that they were not mingling with other people, and they're just safer all around," Fairhurst concluded.