A recent survey of over 1,000 dental practices conducted by Net32 revealed that dentists across the country were generally very fearful about the prospect of resuming their practices in a COVID-19 world, as state stay-at-home mandates are lifted.

Hundreds of comments were related to safety of themselves, their staff, and their patients. In an effort to answer to some of their concerns, I decided to put together a short list of actions that they could take to increase safety as well as increase their ability to attract new patients.

Safety as a differentiator.

More than ever before, patients are going to be choosing a dental practice based on how safe the practice appears to be. Safety is going to be the new differentiator in dental marketing and dentists should consider new practices and policies to align with this patient need.

Invest early and heavily in personal protective equipment (PPE).

Your team and your patients will not want to enter your practice if you are not employing the highest levels of PPE and infection control protocols. I am concerned about scarcity of PPE impairing dentists’ availability to practice safely.

We have been working diligently to ensure that we can stock as much PPE as possible and maintain reasonable pricing amid global shortages, but it has been a challenge. Products such as N95 masks, face shields, surgical masks, and hand sanitizers are extremely difficult to keep in stock these days.

Upgrade your general air treatment systems.

Consider upgrading your practice’s main air conditioning unit(s) to reduce the chance of contaminants spreading through open areas. At Research Triangle Dental, we recently pulled out the 1” thick standard filters and replaced them with 4” high capacity filters with UV germicidal air treatment, with a cost of about $1,500 per A/C unit. This is a relatively low cost to put your patients’ and employees’ minds at ease.

Consider augmented air purification for your operatories.

If you have enclosed operatories, split mini A/C units with HEPA filtration for each op (or one “high level aerosol op”) would likely provide the best air volume treatment and removal. However, this could be very costly, at about $5,000+ per op, and keep in mind that HEPA filters consume a lot of energy to run.

I have chosen to purchase free-standing iAdaptAir units that claim to filter 99.99% of airborne particles including viruses, using ionization, ultraviolet light, carbon, and true HEPA filtration. These cover 250 enclosed square feet for about $400 per unit and plug into 110-volt outlets.

Hire a concierge.

Busy practices should seriously consider hiring a concierge. Directing incoming patients to use hand sanitizer and providing face masks as necessary, as well as helping patients to fill out pre-appointment screening forms, can be very helpful. Also, frequent disinfection of areas where patients may be touching arm rests, counters, and other surfaces will increase patient comfort and confidence.

Apply for CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) certification

…for fast COVID-19 testing with a waiver. This will certify and prepare your practice for fast COVID-19 testing once the FDA provides an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) with a waiver for a fast test.

The cost is only $150 to protect you, your family, your team, and your patients, for the period until a vaccine is available. Fast tests typically take three to 10 minutes.