Mukilteo Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

By Christopher Kim
Beacon intern 

Dentists in Mukilteo have reopened their doors while taking additional precautions during COVID-19

One dentist said his office is 'one of the safest places you can be right now'


Last updated 6/25/2020 at 6:16pm

Photo courtesy of Nhi Pham

Dr. Kristen Morris, Dr. Tiffany Luu-Tran, and Dr. Nhi Pham pose in their Personal Protective Equipment.

Many dentists have had to temporarily close their doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but one Mukilteo dentist said his office is "one of the safest places you can be right now."

Up until mid-May, dentists have had to limit their services strictly to emergencies and urgent care treating things like infections, pain, or trauma that required immediate attention.

Now that the state is slowly on track to reopening businesses, however, dentist offices have been among the first businesses to reopen.

"We've been back up doing regular patient care for the last couple of weeks," said Dr. Paul Kahlon from Stellar Kids Dentistry. "Folks were excited to come in because they have been cooped up in their homes for two months, so just bringing their kids in for dental appointments have been awesome because it gets them out of the house."

Naturally, there are some families with concerns over the transmission of the virus and overall public health safety, Dr. Kahlon said. Offices like Stellar Kids Dentistry, that have reopened their practices to elective care have had to reinvent their facilities and protocols to ensure that the health and safety of patients and workers are prioritized.

Most centers have maintained social distancing by checking in patients from the parking lot and having parents or guardians wait in their car until the end of the appointment rather than in a waiting lounge. Limitations and staggered appointment times to allow time for disinfection in between patients have also been a key part of making sure the center stays sanitary, along with personal protective equipment and screening staff regularly.

"All my staff have to wear masks at the front office," said Dr. Esther Ra from Dentists of Mukilteo. "We disinfect everything and all the chairs in the waiting area. Also we maintain that six feet wearing PPE. From the back, we kinda look like martians."

Other centers, like the Mukilteo Dental Center, have installed medical-grade air purifiers along with additional steps for patients to make when visiting the building. Staff are also required to wear additional layers of personal protective equipment.

"We adhere to infection control protocols from the Center for Disease Control, American Dental Association, WA State Department of Public Health, and OSHA," said Dr. Nhi Pham, from the Mukilteo Dental Center. "We wear N-95 respirator masks, face shields, eye protection, and don a new lab jacket for each aerosol-producing procedure."

"We spent a great amount of money to reopen with all of the technology and equipment we needed to buy," Dr. Pham added.

As the months progress and Gov. Inslee's reopening plan starts to take effect, many dental care centers will be strained to regularly buy PPE, because it's expensive and in short supply, and will likely be one of the biggest challenges for dentists during this season, according to Dr. Pham.

Dentists have always prioritized a sanitary and safe environment, Dr. Kahlon added.

"Our profession is probably the most suited to continue working during the pandemic," he said. "I think one of the safest places you can be is the dental office right now. We're crazy intense about disinfection and keeping things clean and safe."


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