As dental offices across the U.S. and Canada begin to reopen, many patients may be reluctant to schedule routine procedures as new guidelines and protocols are being put in place to reduce the risk of infection.

Dental offices are opening, but both patients and staff remain cautious

Over the last few months, dental offices in most U.S. states and Canadian provinces have only been allowed to provide emergency treatments. Now that practices are authorized to reopen, patients need reassurance about the safety of visiting their dentist for regular preventive care and non-emergency treatments.

Given that oral health is closely linked to overall health, delaying dental treatments can put patients at risk for a variety of other medical conditions. That is why it is so important that dental offices find ways to reassure patients that they have put the appropriate safety measures in place and encourage them to make an appointment to see their dentist.

How can dental offices reassure patients it is safe to come back?

If your practice has yet to fully reopen, you can take the opportunity to reassure patients when you send out your reopening notice. Along with your opening date, include a friendly reminder that the education of every dental professional, including dentists, hygienists, dental assistants and technicians, includes significant infection control training.

Once your office reopens, you can help patients feel safe by making infection control measures that used to be taken “behind the scenes” highly visible to patients. Here are a few ideas to reassure patients from the minute they walk in your door:

Reassuring patients arriving at your office reception desk and waiting area

In addition to limiting the number of patients in your office at once through careful scheduling, you can help patients feel safe by taking these simple measures:

1. Provide hand sanitizer immediately inside the entrance
2. Install a Plexiglas window at the reception desk
3. Provide additional hand sanitizer at the reception desk and offer a mask to patients not already wearing one
4. Offer touch-free payment options whenever possible
5. Remove all magazines and toys from waiting area
6. Place chairs to allow for social distancing

In treatment rooms

During the pandemic, many patients who had never given infection control a second thought learned the meaning of terms like “PPE” and “N95”. As a result, it will be important to make even the most routine infection control measures highly visible to patients. This can mean performing certain tasks in front of patients, such as:

1. Changing headrest and tray covers
2. Changing your gown/jacket
3. Putting on a new mask
4. Putting on a new pair of gloves
5. Opening instrument sterilization pouches
6. Using single-dose varnish

If it is impractical to perform certain tasks in front of patients, you can simply mention what has been done, such as “this is a fresh headrest cover” or “all surfaces in the room were disinfected after the last patient.”

In addition, posting “reminder” signage throughout the office about performing hand hygiene and changing PPE can also help reassure to patients that all possible measures are being taken to ensure their safety.

By taking these steps and providing verbal reassurance throughout their visit, you can help make your patients’ next visit less stressful — and your job easier.

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