NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Dentists across New Mexico are opening their doors to patients again under new health guidelines and appointments are already getting booked months out.
If you’ve been putting off getting a toothache checked out or a dental procedure for the last couple of months, you’re not alone. For those planning their next visit to the dentist, things will look a lot different.
“A lot of the procedures that we have put off now for almost eight weeks are becoming much more urgent,” said Dr. Tom Schripsema, Executive Director of the New Mexico Dental Association.
Dr. Schripsema said the New Mexico Dental Association has been working closely with the state’s Medical Advisory Team on guidelines for reopening.
“We’ve definitely taken more precautions and wanting to make sure that patients are going to feel safe when they’re there, as well as our staff,” said Dr. Schripsema. “We want to stay safe ourselves while we’re working in a hazardous environment.”
Dentists across the state are now allowed to resume “non-essential” dental care under new health orders from the American Dental Association and Center for Disease Control.
Staff is now suited up in more personal protective equipment like masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns.
Patients will no longer sit in waiting rooms. Instead, they’ll likely be asked to wait in their car while dental staff makes sure everything is disinfected in between patients.
Jennifer Abraham with New Mexico Community Dental in Albuquerque said their office is now screening patients for fevers. Staff will also go through a COVID-19 questionnaire the day before and day of patient appointments.
There’s also a hand sanitizing station for people when they walk in, and dental staff will deep-clean hourly in an effort to keep patients and staff safe.
“We all have to stop what we’re doing to make sure that we’re able to deep clean everything, and to do that we have to kind of lengthen our appointments a little bit longer to make sure we have that time to disinfect everything,” said Abraham.
She said they’re already getting lots of calls from people wanting teeth cleanings, but they’re taking high priority, emergency appointments first. Things like cleanings are scheduled way out, and awaiting the green-light from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office for the next reopen phase.
Abraham said each dentist will also use discretion and evaluate which services can be delayed if need be.
“If there is any type of cough or any type of sickness but there is no fever, the doctor will decide whether we can take care of that patient or not. If the doctor doesn’t feel comfortable, we let them go,” said Abraham.
Dentist offices in San Juan, McKinley and Cibola Counties are still closed, as they continue battling a surge of COVID-19 cases.