Dr. Mack Taylor lives and works in the Bootheel. He’s the Chief Dental Officer for the SEMO Health Network and the provider at the Bernie dental clinic.
He spoke about the “new normal” of dental practice during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and how new safety precautions are impacting the care available to patients.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Dr. Mack Taylor: Our normal now is, it's a lot different. Before when you come into the office, we had a waiting room full, and now we have no waiting room. We still have patients waiting in their cars and when they get there – they call us and let us know they're here.
We come out. We give them their paperwork, if needed. We only have one person per provider in the office. So, my hygienist has a patient, and I have a patient, and that's it. My second assistant doesn’t get my next patient back until my first patient is gone.
We're now waiting 15 minutes after the procedure, if it's an aerosol [small, tiny airborne particles] producing procedure. We're waiting 15 minutes due to the CDC guidelines, so that the aerosol – anything that's left in the air – can fall, and then the assistant goes back in and cleans up.
We're wearing N95 masks, and if somebody decides that they don't want to wear the N95, then they're wearing a face shield.
And I'll be the first one to say it, “I hate having to wear PPE.” If I could work in a tank top and shorts, I would because I get warm very easily, and so, this isolation gown and the super heavy mask and the face shield and all this jazz just makes it a heck of a lot more uncomfortable for me.
So, we're killing a lot of time for all of these new procedures and new regulations and new guidance and all that – and I get it that they're necessary. I'm not trying to debate that at all, but it really does limit your capabilities, and with the amount of people that we need to see – it just slows everything down.
It bogs down the whole machine, and the immediate thing is we're going to see an increase in Emergency Room visits again [for oral health and dental pain].
With the inability to see patients and with the lack of providers, I'm afraid that we're going to start seeing some of those numbers pick back up a little bit, until we can get caught up with our current treatment. I think that's going to be something that we see going forward.
You know, these patients that may be immunocompromised to begin with, or patients who are not immunocompromised and are healthy, but, you know, if they start having major dental issues – if you can't chew and eat correctly – you're going to have a hard time doing anything else correctly, too.
So, this can make an impact on overall quality of life for a lot of people, and, again, I go back to the lack of providers being one of the major issues. It's heartbreaking to see that we can't fix everybody.
And I realize this. I'm not trying to sound like some naive, fresh out of college kid that can save the world. We can't fix everybody, but when you're so limited and you see so many people that need something… I just… I go home some days and think, “how the hell are we ever going to manage this?”