Heading back to the dentist for your cleaning or filling will look a lot different in this COVID-19 era.
"We're at high risk, dental hygienists, the dentists," said dentist Stephen M. Miller. "We were put out of business for eight weeks, maybe nine. COVID is a relatively simple virus to kill, if you can find it—it's invisible."
Dentists and hygienists wear PPE and take extra precautions. According to data from the Department of Labor, compiled by the group "Visual Capitalist," their profession is at high risk for COVID-19 exposure. The virus is spread by respiratory droplets from the mouth or nose.
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"There is tremendous research that oral health affects your systemic health," said Dr. Miller.
With that in mind, Dr. Miller turned to the newest technology available to him to keep his patients and staff safe: a UVC unit.
What is that, you may ask? Well, it’s a bright light. Actually, it’s ultraviolet light that kills pathogens on surfaces, like E. coli, salmonella, listeria and even COVID-19 in just a matter of minutes.
UVC Cleaning Systems Dental Sales Director Jim Gaitan said, "It's just it's impossible to spray everything. So if you want surfaces clean, and you want to make sure that the practice in the air is also clean, this light will broadcast in the room. So whatever remnants of COVID may be passing through the air, this can zap it and help make the environment cleaner."
He says hospitals have been using this type of technology for years and recently, more and more industries from dentists and hotels to day cares are demanding it.
It takes ten minutes to clean this 10-foot by 10-foot exam room with the device being moved to two different spots. The makers say you can tell it worked by the smell in the air, similar to what you'd smell after using a tanning bed. Or you can look at these UVC dosimeters, which change color from the light.
The device slowed down the number of patients that can be seen in a day, according to dental hygienist Kathleen Stec. "We have to have 20 minutes in between patients to be able to get this room back to a point where I feel comfortable letting the next person sit down."
But waiting for the room to be thoroughly cleaned helps patients feel at ease.
"I think it's a sensible, safe and scientific way to go about it," said a patient.
But like most technology, it comes with a price. The UVC unit cost Dr. Miller more than $10,000. But for Dr. Miller, it's worth it.
“It was a very large investment to do this, but I wanted to know that I could make my operatory rooms in my office as safe as I could make it for my patients, for my staff to come back and feel comfortable and for anyone that comes through,” said Dr. Miller. “Because you know what? COVID is one disease that you don’t want to get.”