Dentist offices reopen under strict health and safety precautions

Updated: May. 18, 2020 at 2:08 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Dentist offices across North Carolina are starting to reopen after closing their doors for weeks and only seeing patients for emergencies.

“Once the Governor brought us into phase one, that’s when we felt like it was necessary for us to start doing our cleaning appointments, our orthodontic appointments, along with oral surgery,” said Dr. Michael Riccobene of Riccobene Associates Family Dentistry.

Riccobene has offices all over the state, but several here in the Cape Fear. He says they’re pulling out of the stops when it comes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Patients receive an email prior to their appointment that asks about their health to make sure it’s safe to set foot in the office. Patients are also asked to limited the number of people that come to the office with them.

“Come into the office and we take your temperature,” said Riccobene. “Not only do we do that for our patients, but we also do that for employees.”

Dr. Devinn Geeson owns Complete Dental which has four locations in the Cape Fear. She has implemented the same precautions after reopening earlier in May.

“There’s an increase in all of our safety and infection control protocols,” said Geeson. “Starting from the moment the patient comes to the practice.”

Geeson closed their waiting room and asks for patients to wait in their cars before they’re called for their appointment. They’ll receive a text when it’s time to come in.

The lobby in Riccobene’s office is setup to allow patients to practice social distancing. Protective barriers at the front desk also help keep employees and patients safe.

“We give all patients the option of waiting in their car,” said Riccobene. “We ask patients to bring masks if they have them. If they come and don’t have masks, we offer them a mask to wear why they’re here.”

Employees at both dentist offices are given personal protective equipment.

“Our staff’s temperatures are taken daily,” said Geeson. “We’re wearing N-95 masks, face shields, gowns. We are wrapped up and doing everything possible to keep our patients safe and our staff.”

Several air scrubbers and purifiers have been installed in the offices to clean and recycle the air several times an hour.

Both dentists say they understand the anxiety and fear that is associated with getting back to normal, like going to the dentist, but want to remind people that taking care of your oral health is important.

“Regular maintenance is absolutely essential,” said Geeson. “We’re doing everything under the sun that we can do to keep you healthy and safe.”

“I know sometimes we look at dentistry as just wanting to whiten our teeth, brighten our teeth, or just wanting them to look good,” said Riccobene. “There really is a health component to taking are of your oral health. It’s very important to not think that because of this and that they were told it wasn’t essential that they continue to believe that, because we believe, as health care practitioners, that it is really integral to their overall health.”

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