Doctor Visits During COVID-19 Mean Increased Safety Protocols

Some make strides with telemedicine, but not much dentistry can happen on the phone

From virtual consultations to increased safety protocols, visits to the dentist or dermatologist, like everything else, are different in the time of COVID-19.

Dr. Michael Rainwater

Dr. Michael Rainwater said dental work first got delayed because of the prohibition of elective procedures in March and April. 

“We have a backlog in a sense of patients for routine cleaning, and then we did have an increase backlog of patients with emergency care,” Rainwater said. “It’s been kind of a unique time of patients that normally would come in quickly to get their work done, but weren’t able to.”

He said dentists have noticed an increase in stress-related dental problems.

“We’ve had an increased number of patients chipping or breaking teeth, possibly due to grinding and clenching and stress involved,” Rainwater said. “I’ve had an increased number of (patients with) mouth ulcers from changes in diet.”

His office has taken such precautions as introducing air purifying and fogging systems, eliminating the use of the waiting room, and pre-screening patients over the phone as they’re making an appointment. Patients and staff also have their temperature checked as they enter the office, where masks are required at all times. 

“I tell staff, ‘We’ve got to spend extra time, in a sense, smiling with our eyes or using nonverbal communication to make sure we’re providing care in a comfortable way.’ “

Dr. Michael Rainwater

“One of the difficulties is providing comfortable care to patients when we introduce procedures like we lock our front door,” Rainwater said. “We greet patients with protective personal equipment at the initial greeting with a mask and a shield on. I tell staff, ‘We’ve got to spend extra time, in a sense, smiling with our eyes or using nonverbal communication to make sure we’re providing care in a comfortable way.’”

He added that the Centers for Disease Control, the American Dental Association, and the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners have helped by providing guidance.

“We can manage how many people come into the office (and) how much increased time (to allow) per procedure so that we have plenty of time to comfortably implement the increased protocols,” Rainwater said. “In a sense, the dental office can be a very controlled environment.”

Dr. Ramya Kollipara

His office is doing an increased amount of “teledentistry,” even though not much dentistry can be done over the phone, he said.

In contrast, dermatologists, however, are doing “significantly” more televisits during the pandemic, said Dr. Ramya Kollipara of Westlake Dermatology, which recently opened its first Dallas location in Hilltop Plaza.

“(Patients) appreciate the convenience of being able to do (telehealth visits) at any point during the day, and we’re doing both cosmetic consultations that way as well as medical visits,” Kollipara said. “It’s nice because they can take a little break from their work when they get a chance to get their concerns addressed.”

She said her office has also implemented safety protocols, including checking patients’ temperatures when they come in the office, having them take a questionnaire for COVID-19 symptoms, and requiring masks for staff and patients.

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Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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