BUSINESS & LIFE: Is it time to return to the dentist

Dr. Emanuel Finn

We thank you for your comments on Issue #12, “Pushing Through Fear to Success.”  This article appeared to connect to many persons, inspiring them to hold on, to take the bold steps towards the direction of their dreams and to look for opportunities amidst their obstacles.  Many asked for the new address of VF Inc.  We have moved to 78, Independence Street, Roseau, Commonwealth of Dominica.  We have now included the physical address in the footer of the Newsletter.

This week, we introduce the dental column by Dr. Emanuel Finn.  Early in March 2020, I decided that all dental appointments were on hold, and as businesses were allowed to return to work, I questioned whether I was ready to return to the dentist.  This week, Dr. Finn answers the question, “Is it time to return to the dentist?”   

 Most Dental offices were largely closed to all; only offering emergency care. Many closed entirely. The view was that by allowing dentists to continue to treat serious cases, such as intense tooth pain and infections, those patients would stay out of hospital emergency rooms, where medical workers were busy with severely ill coronavirus patients.  Routine dental checkups and cleanings were deemed nonessential; at least initially.  So, the 64-million-dollar question is, “With COVID-19 lockdowns removed and economies reopened to business, in what is termed, ‘the new normal,’ is it really safe to go to the dentist now?”

According to infectious control and disease experts, some infections in dental settings are likely to be inevitable. The reality is that at the moment nothing can completely eliminate the coronavirus transmission. But the hope is that, all universal infectious disease control recommendations will be adhered to by dentists, thus mitigating the risk of infections. Therefore, patients can resume with their normal dental appointments.

But of course, the fearful concern regarding the risk of transmission of COVID-19 during a visit to the dentist is understandable.  Dental health care personnel use instruments such as dental drills, ultrasonic scalers and air-water syringes that create a visible spray that can contain particle droplets of water, saliva, blood, microorganisms and other debris.”

Large droplets can land directly on others in the examination room and can contaminate frequently touched surfaces. The spray could also include small “aerosolized” droplets of COVID-19 virus, if a patient has the virus. And those droplets can remain in the air for up to three hours, according to some estimates, and potentially spread the virus to dental staff or the next patient, unless stringent precautions are taken.  These precautions include providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and disinfecting the treatment room, instruments and surfaces between patients.

Dr. Finn with one of his young patients

Despite these potential risks, the good news is that both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 transmitted in a dental office so far. And that includes follow-up by the CDC of news reports suggesting such infections.

The CDC in Atlanta has provided some guidelines for dental offices. They include:

  • Screen patients before each appointment, and when they arrive, for symptoms of COVID-19 — such as cough and fever — and postpone if they have symptoms that could indicate they have the virus.
  • Use each patient’s car or a spot outside the office as the waiting room.
  • Remove items such as toys, magazines and coffee stations [which can be infection sources] from waiting rooms.
  • Require masks for patients and anyone with them while in the office area and immediately after procedures and checkups.
  • Place a plastic or glass barrier between patient and reception staff.
  • Avoid using powered tools when possible — some practices no longer use a polisher for teeth cleanings, for example.
  • Leave out only the tools needed for each individual patient so other tools cannot potentially become contaminated.
  • Use rubber dams (a thin, 6-inch square sheet, usually latex or nitrile to isolate the operative site from the rest of the mouth) over a patient’s mouth for procedures when possible to limit spray of secretions.
  • Use multiple dental workers when doing aerosol-generating procedures when possible to speed up the visit and minimize exposure.
  • Install high-efficiency particulate air filters to improve room filtration, which might, research suggests, reduce transmission of airborne particles of the virus.

Delaying checkups or care for dental pain can potentially turn a small cavity into a root canal or tooth extraction and add to treatment time, higher costs and even more pain. In rare cases missing out on dental care can result in serious infections and even death.

Patients also have the important responsibility to protect themselves and others to minimise the chance of being infected with the COVID-19 virus.  They need to inform the dental office before or on the day of their appointment if they are feeling sick and reschedule the appointment.

We are all in this together! Please don’t neglect that million-dollar smile for bright smiles mean brighter days and brighter futures!!!!

Dr. Emanuel Finn attended the La Plaine Primary School and the Dominica Grammar School. He holds a BSc. in Chemistry, a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and Master’s Degree in Health Administration and Policy. He is a former Congressional Health Policy Advisor, in the office of U.S Senator Wyden of Oregon on Capitol Hill.  From 2002 to 2012, Dr. Finn was the Dental Program Manager at the DC Department of Health. He currently practices Dentistry in Maryland. He resides in Washington DC with wife Chrissie and daughters Sari and Alanna.                  

We will feature an “Interview with Mrs. Samantha Antoine-Purcell, Co-founder of the St. Georges Institute”, in Issue # 14.

We look forward to hearing from you with comments on this article, suggestions for topics to be covered and sharing of your HR experience, especially during the COVID-19 era.  Please feel free to share this Newsletter with your contacts. We also welcome guest authors and look forward to receiving your articles for publication.

Until next week, May God continue to Keep us in the Palm of His Hands.  Please send us your questions, comments and share your experience managing in the COVID-19- era at [email protected].  You may also reach us by telephone: 1 767 275 0566/617 0566.

Book and Save those Dates:

March 8 – 9, 2021:

VF Inc Wealth Symposium

March 11 – 12, 2021:

VF Inc HR Conference

We, at VF Inc, stand ready to serve and be of service to our clients and prospective clients, “with Integrity and Excellence,” in keeping with our Motto.





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