Dr Derek Mahony is a world-renowned Registered Specialist Orthodontist and expert in Dentofacial Orthopaedics who has trained thousands of dentists. He is also the Owner and Practice Principal at Full Face Orthodontics & Dental Sleep Medicine, a group practice based in NSW with six locations.
In this interview excerpt, Dr Mahony shares his insights on what orthodontic practices can do in advance of lowered restriction levels in the post-coronavirus environment.
Most, if not all, of the ideas and examples shared by the Specialist Orthodontist are drawn from pre-existing and enhanced infection and hygiene control protocols adopted in his own clinics:
1. Call patients
We make the effort of ringing every patient to say that we have re-opened and inform about the changes that they can expect. We’ve got a prepared script/checklist that our staff use when making these calls.
The calls are designed to:
- Reassure patients by providing an overview of our sterilisation and sanitisation procedures.
- Point them to our social media posts and emails to help them stay informed of latest practice updates.
2. Book short appointments
With 5000 patients in active treatments, we’re making short in-person appointments (each lasting about 5-10 minutes) to provide them an update, evaluate where they are in their treatment, and advise on what the next step is.
This way we’re seeing all of them without too much of a delay. We have stopped our operations for six weeks now and the patients are getting a bit antsy.
3. Re-organise office
- Most orthodontic clinics have an open plan in which multiple chairs are positioned right next to each other. Due to social distancing rules, our dental chairs are moved apart by a minimum 6-foot (1.8 metres) distance.
- Re-organised our waiting room such that all the non-essential items – like magazines, toys, coffee/tea station, etc. – are stowed away. This is to minimise the potential spread of infection through contaminated objects so anything that people are prone to touch is put away.
- Limit certain procedures in the office. For orthodontists, the only procedure that we do that has the potential to generate aerosols is the removal of braces, so we’ve put a hold on that for the moment.
- Incorporate the use of a new electric motor handpiece (for removal of braces) because it generates lesser aerosols than a high-speed handpiece.
- Upgraded waterlines using ozone, which effectively provides sterile water in every dental chair.
- Stagger the scheduling of patients in such a way that abides by social distancing regulations.
- All patients need to sanitise their hands at the sanitisation station located near the entrance of every clinic, before entering the premises.
- Patients are asked to rinse their mouths with a 1% hydrogen peroxide rinse that reduces the bacterial flow of saliva.
- Instead of checking in via a computer terminal at the clinic, which is our usual practice, patients now check-in via a text message – usually done in their cars. We also respond via text to inform them when it’s their turn to come inside.
- We see a lot of young patients who are accompanied by adults. To maintain social distancing measures, we now limit each appointment to allow only one adult per child.
- We’re now using N95 masks, which is an expensive change (from $1– $10 per mask). The clinicians and nurses are required to change an outer mask for each patient they see, and an inner mask every hour.
Before patients come to the office, we will pre-screen them over the phone.
We ask patients whether they:
- Have recently participated in any large gatherings.
- Travelled outside of Australia.
- They or any member of their family have been sick or had a fever in the last 14 days
We would consider re-scheduling anyone who answers ‘yes’ to these questions. The only exception applies to high-school students answering the first question, because some children were still going to school during this period of time.