Going to the dentist in Florida may be very different, post-shutdown

Starting May 4, Floridians can finally have their teeth cleaned at the dentist, go for an exam at the eye doctor, or have knee surgery. Resuming those elective procedures is all part of Governor Ron DeSantis’ phase-one plan to reopen the state.

The mandated ban on elective procedures was a tough blow to dentist Dr. Don Vespa and his practice, Pinellas Family Dental.

“The majority of our treatments, probably 90% are elective and its cleanings, gum disease treatment, crowns, fillings,” he said.

INFO: Frequently asked questions about phase one of the plan to reopen Florida

Starting next week, physicians across the state have the green light to start seeing patients again.

“We’re excited to get back to it though, totally excited,” said Vespa.

However, going to see the dentist will certainly be a different experience.

“We knew there was gonna be a lot of questions,” said Dr. Rudy Liddell with Brandon Dental Care.

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As the president of the Florida Dental Association, Liddell helped the American Dental Association develop guidelines for offices opening back up. And screenings are a major part of the recommendations.

“They would ask you questions such as, 'Have you been exposed to anyone who has had the COVID-19 virus?' 'Have you traveled anywhere that has been a hotspot for COVID-19?' 'How do you feel in general; do you have a fever?'” Liddell explained. “We have thermometers that we’re gonna check everybody’s temperature.”

When you arrive at the clinic, you will likely be asked to stay in your car, and call to see if they are ready to take you.

“That just minimizes patient-to-patient interactions,” said Liddell.

He tells us magazines, drink stations and toys for the kids are suggested to be removed from the reception area. And staff will all be wearing more personal protective gear than before.

“The biggest tangible difference is the providers, the hygienists, the assistant, and the doctors wearing face shields,” Liddell said. “A level-three surgical mask with a face shield and eye protection under the face shield is adequate for all the things that we do.”

Disinfecting will be ramped up through the entire office.

Vespa tells us his practice plans to significantly cut back on the number of patients coming to the office each day.

“We’re gonna try to take it slow and not be so busy at first,” he said.

“Patient safety is our utmost concern, as well as our team members, so it’s going to be safe to come back to the dentist,” added Liddell.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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