The office is welcoming patients after closing their doors for over two months
EXETER – Although the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, businesses around the country have began opening up their doors again. Exeter Family Dentistry was closed to patients for over two months before reopening on June 3.
While many dentist offices have begun seeing patients again, various precautions were put in place to ensure patient safety. According to Exeter Family Dentistry business manager Valerie Agahi, their office spent three days training with materials from the California Dental Association (CDA) in preparation for reopening. There were a lot of new protocols that came down from the CDA which only enhanced practices that the dentist office already had in place.
“It wasn’t a whole lot different. I’m wearing a double mask and shield but before I just wore glasses and a mask,” Agahi said. “We’ve installed air purifiers in all of our treatment rooms. We greet people at the door, take their temperature, go through a long list of screening questions, have them clean their hands and we make sure they have a mask.”
Exeter Family Dentistry is also limiting people from sitting in the waiting room. They’ve removed magazines, toys, and anything else that is touched by patients. When people come for appointments, they come in through the waiting room but then they go out through the side door. They also put shields around the receptionist desk to keep their workers safe as well.
“It’s normal for when one person comes, the whole family may come so we can’t do that anymore,” Agahi said.
Changes to their business model during the pandemic hurt their pocketbook, but didn’t close their doors. According to Agahi they only took emergency calls over the phone, and were not able to perform any billable services for 11 weeks. Fortunately they received much needed assistance from the Payroll Protection Program which was designed to help businesses keep their workers employed during the pandemic. Despite having to furlough 100% of their staff, the company was able to bring them all back.
Now that they have their employees in the office and seeing patients again, the office now faces the challenge of finding essential supplies.
“The cost of things has gone up exponentially, certain items have gone up 600-700% if you can even find them because their [availability] is so scarce,” Agahi said. “Part of the reason we closed is so we wouldn’t be ordering stuff that hospitals needed like masks and gloves. So now that we’re open, we’re having a really hard time finding that stuff.”
Exeter Family Dentistry has returned to their regular office hours of Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They’re only seeing 50% of their regular patients, and that’ll likely continue until there is reliable rapid testing and a vaccine in place for COVID-19. For now, their focus is on serving the community while keeping everyone safe.
“I saw a patient that told me they felt really safe when they were here and that made my day because I’m doing all of this for them. I’m glad they acknowledge it and see it,” Agahi said.