Dentists prepare to welcome back regular patients

An examination room at Balmoral Dental Center. It's one of many offices that opted to wait until Monday, May 4, to reopen to regular clients.
An examination room at Balmoral Dental Center. It's one of many offices that opted to wait until Monday, May 4, to reopen to regular clients.

Dental offices in Alabama were allowed to open on Friday, May 1, but many are choosing to delay their opening day in order to better prepare for patients.

Posted: May 1, 2020 11:11 PM

With the Safter at Home order in effect, dentists around the state are preparing to start treating regular patients. 

Ever since March 17, dental offices have only been allowed to see patients who have a dental emergency. However, they haven't just been waiting around to reopen.

"We've not been on vacation, that's for sure. I think most dentists would agree this has been a stressful time not knowing what was coming next, not knowing how long we would have to close our businesses. Being kept away from what we love to do every day," said Dr. Jennifer Perkins.

Dr. Perkins said beyond securing a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, the biggest hurdle for her practice, Perkins Dentistry, has been acquiring personal protective equipment or PPE.

Following an emergency meeting of the Alabama Board of Dental Examiners on Wednesday, a series of guidelines for dental practices was issued to keep workers and patients safe.

"We're trying to keep our teams safe and more importantly, we're trying to keep our patients safe. And so, we'll look a little bit different when you come back into our offices. It's a good thing you know who we are," said Dr. Perkins.

Both she and other dentists, like Dr. Angela Fennell with Comprehensive Dentistry, said they spent part of this week making sure their staffs were trained to know how to safely interact with patients now. 

They both said that having gone through the changes in protective equipment and patient interactions that happened following the rise of HIV/AIDS in the 80s helped prepare them to handle some of these changes.

But because some of the PPE that they need is in such high demand, it has required them to get creative at times.

"We were not able to get surgical gowns through the normal route. So, wanting to open and see our patients and keep my team really safe, I've decided to make my own surgical gowns. So, still at the sewing machine and 30 of those will be coming off the line in time for Monday," said Dr. Perkins.

Both dentists decided to wait until Monday to reopen to regular clients. Another adjustment they will be making is staggering patient appointments. The new guidelines don't allow for as many patients to be seen as much, which will drive down revenue for a while.

"I think we're so thankful to go back to work that something's better than nothing. And I think it's time to go back to work safely as long as every office that opens is prepared," said Dr. Perkins.

One notable change for patients too is that they won't be allowed to wait in the waiting room. They will have to stay outside either in their cars or in seating provided by an office until they are called in. 

To read the full list of guidelines, click here.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 137564

Reported Deaths: 2399
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19938351
Mobile13507293
Montgomery8866185
Tuscaloosa8837118
Madison798179
Shelby607449
Lee597161
Baldwin560650
Marshall397543
Calhoun355644
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Morgan333428
Houston293921
Elmore271948
DeKalb244321
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Walker235485
Talladega217830
Limestone214420
Cullman191920
Dallas179826
Franklin179130
Autauga178727
Russell17683
Lauderdale175133
Colbert167726
Blount162115
Escambia161624
Jackson159712
Chilton159530
Covington140727
Dale140344
Coffee13716
Pike121611
Chambers117542
Tallapoosa117185
Clarke110316
Marion97529
Butler91740
Barbour8867
Winston75013
Marengo72620
Pickens67014
Randolph66613
Lowndes65927
Bibb65810
Hale64928
Geneva6444
Lawrence63425
Cherokee61713
Bullock60714
Clay5918
Monroe5908
Washington56012
Crenshaw54332
Perry5426
Conecuh53911
Wilcox53211
Henry5105
Macon48318
Fayette4689
Sumter43719
Cleburne3945
Lamar3822
Choctaw35112
Greene30515
Coosa1743
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 194611

Reported Deaths: 2420
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby31097466
Davidson26797311
Hamilton963495
Knox960579
Rutherford945290
Williamson536636
Sumner489598
Wilson356247
Putnam336541
Montgomery313344
Unassigned30444
Madison299265
Out of TN297727
Bradley297217
Sevier266415
Blount256324
Maury242725
Washington235538
Robertson223939
Sullivan223133
Hamblen194828
Tipton184519
Gibson172624
Trousdale16697
Hardeman158426
Wayne15015
Dyer142017
Bedford137317
Dickson128015
Coffee127713
Fayette122719
Cumberland121919
Weakley121620
Anderson121013
Obion120211
Loudon11996
Henderson119125
Carter118028
Greene116946
McMinn116325
Jefferson114414
Lawrence108913
Warren10777
Macon106721
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Haywood99821
Franklin99410
Lake9252
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Carroll91320
Roane9126
Bledsoe8624
White85510
Rhea85413
Hawkins82720
Cheatham8199
Marshall7815
Overton7706
Cocke75310
Smith74011
Johnson7323
Chester65011
Giles64417
Lincoln6331
Henry6309
Hickman6008
DeKalb57414
Marion5518
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Jackson3325
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Grundy3176
Cannon2950
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