**REOPENING DURING COVID-19**
Dear Lahair & Gallagher Patients, Families & Friends:
We wanted to give you an update on office policies and procedures following the release of Governor Baker’s reopening plans for Phase 2 which he released June 6, 2020. Phase 2, which is referred to as the “Cautious Phase,” allows dental providers to cautiously and incrementally resume all elective, non-urgent procedures and services, including routine hygiene appointments. Phase 2 excludes elective cosmetic services. Phase 2 incremental dental care started on June 8, 2020. Phase 2 allows dentists to apply their professional judgment to determine what care should be provided for their patients.
In order to move forward into Phase 2, dental providers must maintain ongoing compliance with public health and safety standards identified in Phase 1. Phase 2 is also contingent on Massachusetts’ ability to maintain sufficient statewide hospital bed capacity (>30% ICU and >30% inpatient bed capacity, statewide), which was also included in Phase 1 requirements. As the governor noted, if the data begin to show a backward trend, it is possible that care will again become limited to Phase 1 services.
Phase 2, is great news for all of our patients! In Phase 1, we were only allowed to schedule appointments for our patients to address emergent and urgent dental needs. In Phase 2, we will have the ability to, once again, address all of our patient’s pediatric and orthodontic dental needs. We will be able to start scheduling hygiene (6-month cleaning) appointments, we will be able to provide preventive care (Sealants and Fluoride treatments), and we will also be able to schedule Banding (inserting appliances) and Debanding (removing appliances) appointments for our orthodontic patients.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will still be a limited number of restorative (fillings, extractions, etc.), hygiene, and orthodontic appointments available. We must continue to do our part to practice social distancing and to continue to flatten the curve. In the Phase 2 guidelines, it states that “Dentists should expand services cautiously, using their clinical judgment to prioritize urgent services, emerging services, and preventive care. Prioritization criteria should promote equitable access to care for all populations. Dentists should continue to defer elective cosmetic procedures to future phases.” In Phase 2, the focus is on the prioritization of dental care. Dentists should prioritize dental care as follows:
1. Emergency or urgent
2. Previously in the middle of treatment or treated during emergency care
3. Disease management, trauma, compromised function, and frequently cared for patients
4. At-risk patients to prevent potential dental emergent and urgent care situations
5. Continuity of care
6. Recall preventive and routine comprehensive dental care
What does this mean for our patients?
1. For restorative appointments and orthodontic adjustment appointments, there will not be any significant changes. We will continue to handle and schedule these appointments as we have in Phase 1.
2. For orthodontic banding and debanding appointments (placement or removal of braces or attachments), we will address these based on case acceptance and case completion dating back to March 16, 2020, when the office was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
3. For hygiene (cleaning) appointments, these are the appointments where there will be the most notable changes. In order to comply with the Phase 2, CDC, OSHA, and MDS guidelines, we have made the following changes to our hygiene appointments
a. We will prioritize cleaning appointments for patients most at risk for dental decay/disease. This includes, but is not limited to:
i. Patients that are in active orthodontic treatment
ii. Patients that are a high risk for dental decay
iii. Patients that have a history of extensive restorative treatment
iv. Patients that have or are at risk for periodontal disease
v. Patients that have special needs or a diminished capacity to effectively maintain adequate home care
b. Due to current CDC guidelines on infection control, hygiene bays will be limited to one family per bay at a time.
c. Due to CDC guidelines on social distancing, we will only be able to schedule TWO (2) children at a time per hygiene bay. As in Phase 1, only the child/children with dental appointments will be allowed into the office and only one parent/legal guardian/escort will be allowed to accompany their child/children.
d. Due to CDC guidelines on infection control, while in Phase 2, hygiene appointments will be limited to a dental exam, radiographs (x-rays), hand scaling, toothbrush prophies, and fluoride treatments. While we are in Phase 2, we are limiting aerosol producing procedures (prophy angles (rubber cup), ultrasonic scalers, etc.) in the hygiene bays to be in line with current infection control protocols so that we may continue to provide dental care in a safe and effective manner for our patients and staff.
4. While we will try to honor all scheduled appointments, due to restrictions placed on us by the State of Massachusetts, we will be severely limited in the number of appointments we can offer any of our patients during reopening Phases 1, 2 and 3. Furthermore, some scheduled appointments (elective or non-emergent) will need to be canceled to meet state guidelines on social distancing and to make sure any appointments that are scheduled are prioritized appropriately.
5. Please note the following procedural changes during your child’s appointment:
a. Upon your arrival for your appointment, rather than coming right in, please call our office at 508-854-9994 from the parking lot and let them know you have arrived. We will then ask you a series of brief COVID-19 health-screening questions and let you know when you can come up to the office.
b. You will be met by a staff member at the door where the temperature of every child and guardian/escort (if accompanying the child into the office) will be taken with a touch-less hand-held thermometer. If anyone answers yes to the COVID-19 questionnaire or if their temperature is greater than 100.4F, you will be asked to reschedule.
c. Following successful completion of the questionnaire and temperature guidelines, you will be asked to use hand sanitizer and a staff member will bring you back to the treatment area immediately. We ask that no one congregates in the waiting area unless they need help from the front desk. If you do need to be in the waiting room, please maintain the 6 feet social distancing requirement.
d. Please limit the visit to one guardian/escort per patient appointment and no siblings unless the siblings have an appointment too. It is important that all guardians/escorts and children (based on the level of cooperation) wear a mask in our office. Please bring masks from home so we can maintain our supply of masks.
e. You and your child will notice significant changes to our reception area. We added “sneeze guards” to the front desk and we have removed all toys, video game controllers, and magazines which may cause the spread of COVID-19.
f. Appointments will be managed to allow for more distancing between patients. That may mean that you’re offered fewer options for scheduling your appointment.
We are grateful to continue to inch closer and closer back to a level of pre-COVID-19 normalcy at the office. What we look forward to most is the joy and pleasure of resuming dental care with our patients, and to continue to help make their smiles shine their brightest.
Drs. Lahair & McGary