We Will Be Back Soon!
Right now I am being told not to do what I love to do the most in life, what is at the core of who I am, and what I have practiced at for over 30 years - that is, doing dentistry. I have been in this position a few times before. During both my pregnancies, for a few weeks I had to rest and not work, but I knew when that time would be over. Right after Hurricane Sandy, my office lost power and we didn’t know when we would get it back, so for a few days we were closed. That time ended quickly though, when one of my most trusted oral surgeons offered part of his office to me, so we worked in his office until our power came back. But this time, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the phrase “until further notice” is much more ominous than ever.On March 16, the American Dental Association, the Connecticut State Dental Association and the Connecticut Department of Health all issued emails stating that dental offices were only to treat emergencies. They went on to define what they consider emergencies. Things like fillings or whitening were certainly off the list of acceptable treatment, and really only if you are in pain, swollen, or infected, you are not being seen. Lots of concerns ran through my mind. First, we are going to have a lot of big dental problems when we do get back due to all the situations that are going to have to wait, and for how long, we don’t know. Second, all the treatment I had recommended to patients in the past year, encouraging them to get it done on their schedule, not the tooth’s demand - well in times like this, those things become a problem. Third, all our senior citizen patients who I hope have friends or family to look after them while being homebound. And in the midst of this - my staff. They will need to be supported somehow, whether the office is open or not.
We immediately jumped to action. Doris, one of our hygienists, personally called the patients scheduled in the next few weeks. I refused to let anyone use the term “closed” or “cancel”, instead we are “open for emergencies, the doctor is available” and “postpone” your appointment. I know we will be back to seeing our patients on a regular basis at some point.
This week, we were told by the dental legislators that they set the date of April 22 as the magic day after which we can see all patients once again. Hooray! I am sure there will be new rules and guidelines about infection control and protocol that we will have to follow then. I will be so thrilled to get back to dentistry I will wear whatever they tell me to wear. Doris, Cat , our other hygienist, and I already were shopping for surgical caps to wear in fun colors and patterns. We are going to allow more time per patient so as to take extra precautions such as taking each person’s temperature, blood pressure, and thorough medical update and not have anyone waiting in the waiting room. We will be practicing in a new era.
I graduated dental school in 1987, right during the beginning of the AIDS outbreak. This was a very big shift in how infection control procedures were taken in dentistry. Ours was the first class to be required to wear gloves, mask and glasses while treating patients. For me, wearing such PPE (personal protection equipment) has always been routine, but for older dentists it took some getting used to. Now we are about to face another shift of increased infection control.
So we will be back!! And when you come to the office, don’t be offended if I don’t shake your hand or give you a hug, and take a look at my new scrub cap I'm wearing. We may look a little different, but we will have the same smiles because we all will be so happy to see all of you and be back doing what we do best - taking care of all of you, one smile at a time.
Maryann Lehmann, DDS 5 Brook Street, Suite 1B Darien, CT 06820 203-655-0021