Dentistry during COVID-19, and how we move forward

by Dr. Peter Harnois

When was the last time you sat in a dental chair? With all the spraying, irrigating and splattering of bacteria that goes on during an appointment in and around your mouth, in close quarters, doesn’t that just increase the risks of contracting disease? We were surprised and pleased to find out that new procedures since the pandemic have been so good that, according to Dr. Peter Harnois of Hinsdale Dentistry, there have been no cases of COVID-19 due to visits to a dentist’s office.

“I have never seen so many broken teeth. People clench their jaws and grind their teeth, and they wear down and get loose and break, even at night, and they don’t know it.”

“I have been practicing dentistry for 39 years, and in my early days, I actually taught classes for eight years on how to properly deal with infectious diseases at the College of Dentistry [at the] University of Illinois Medical School in downtown Chicago,” Harnois said. At the outset of his practice, he has always taken the safest precautions. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit a year ago, and all practices were shuttered, except for emergencies, [my team and I] used the time to learn everything that was available about the disease from the CDC and OHSHA, including the kind of masks and shields and gowns to wear; the kinds of tools that could be disposable; and kinds of protective coverings needed for all the cords that attach to all the tools they use, [and] updates on sterilization procedures,” Harnois said. “We got up to speed on every aspect in dealing with the pandemic. For example, we now have new steps as patients arrive for appointments. Waiting rooms are completely avoided.

Dr. Mike Kowalczyk

You sit in your vehicle and wait to be called. You are quickly ushered into the office, where temperatures are taken, and you are asked eight key questions we have all become accustomed to. Then, [you] are brought into [your] private room, where Dr. Harnois or Dr. Mike Kowalczyk and a dental assistant are waiting, in full protective gear. “As a result, our patients have implicitly trusted the practice, which has been very gratifying. In fact, for several reasons, we have been as busy as ever. “For one thing, with all the tension and anxiety brought on by the pandemic, I have never seen so many broken teeth. People clench their jaws and grind their teeth, and they wear down and get loose and break, even at night, and they don’t know it.“ If your jaw muscles are sore and you see your teeth looking shiny, you may be on your way to losing teeth. We have a guard for that. “Interestingly enough, people are more flexible with their time. Many don’t have to commute downtown, and it is easier for them to make appointments. They also are taking time to literally look in the mirror and see ways they can look and feel better.” Whether you have children or you are older, professionals like Harnois say you shouldn’t be afraid to go to the dentist, because it is safer now than it ever has been.

*Photos by Marcello Rodarte

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