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Precautions: Dentists adjust to new way of doing business

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Safety first: Kieran O’Connor says dentists have always practised infection control. PHOTO: Orla Murray/ SON Photographic Ltd

Safety first: Kieran O’Connor says dentists have always practised infection control. PHOTO: Orla Murray/ SON Photographic Ltd

Safety first: Kieran O’Connor says dentists have always practised infection control. PHOTO: Orla Murray/ SON Photographic Ltd

Dental patients will undergo screening over the phone to assess them for potential coronavirus symptoms and will be asked to fill out another questionnaire when they come to the surgery before treatment.

The precaution is one of a range of safety measures imposed by more than 2,000 dentists who are opening their doors again this week for routine treatment.

Youghal dentist Kieran O'Connor said dentists' safety procedures have been high for decades since the emergence of HIV and the risks from winter flu.

"The biggest change will not be in the surgery but how we do all the other stuff," he said.

"We have a sign saying people must phone for an appointment.

"We have reduced the waiting room to three chairs - we used to have nine. Families can no longer come together.

"The dentist will wear gloves, plastic apron, a surgical mask, goggles or a visor for eye protection. We always had that anyway."

Dentists will have to see fewer patients in a day.

"We are a safe place and have always done the infection control. If people come in, there will be minimal contact with others."

He said "gone are the magazines from the waiting room and patients may have to wait in their car until they are called".

Mr O'Connor is the vice president of the Irish Dental Association.

Asked if it will increase prices, he said it was early days but dentists will have to weigh up fixed costs with reduced footfall.

The country's optometrists also resumed business yesterday but are asking people to phone ahead for appointments.

They will be triaged over the phone and staff will be operating behind screens.

People will be asked to wear a mask and fill out a Covid-19 assessment form.

Lynda McGivney Nolan, of the Association of Optometrists in Ireland, said they will need to limit exposure and this means tests may have to be carried out at separate times, with return visits.

"The puff of air test for glaucoma will have to be done differently. The rooms will have to be disinfected after each patient and this will mean fewer people can be seen," she said.

"The practitioner will be wearing masks and goggles.

"A business decision on whether to increase costs will have to be made by each practice."

She said there will be a cost for PPE. People with PRSI or a medical card are not affected but a private patient may find themselves paying up to 50pc more.

Irish Independent