To minimize contact between patients, Dr. Aditi Shah of Azure Dental in Colleyville said she is limiting the number of patients in her office to two at a time. That’s after the patients have undergone a screening for COVID-19 symptoms.
Among Shah’s other precautions are filtering the air in each room after use as well as donning multiple layers of personal protective equipment, she said.
“I'm probably wearing ... two different types of masks: an N95 and a regular one over [the N95] to protect it because we don't have that many of those,” she said. "I'm wearing goggles, and I'm wearing a face shield.”
Sourcing protective equipment during the pandemic has proven to be a challenge for some. Dr. Anissa Singratanakul, who goes by Sing, said she has acquired supplies for her True Dental office in Grapevine through donations as well as other atypical means.
“My brother-in-law actually 3D printed us face masks,” Sing said. “Fortunately, we had a back stock of sanitizers. ... We had gone to Sam’s [Club] a long time ago and bought the big gallon.”
It’s not just equipment and sanitizer that are in short supply amid the pandemic. Sing said she has resorted to Facebook groups to get information about accessing funds from federal financial relief.
“They said apply through PayPal, [so] I applied with PayPal and got review within the day,” Sing said. “They said they'd submit the application, but then there's nobody to talk to you because it's a web bank.”
Statewide, dental offices were the second highest sector of unemployment claims filed between March 25-April 25, accounting for 29,863 claims during that time, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. Both Sing and Shah said they issued furloughs during the stay-at-home orders so their respective employees could access unemployment benefits.
Though Shah was approved for the Payroll Protection Program, she said she has received little communication about meeting certain requirements of the loan.
“Depending on the bank that you worked with, or ... when you got the money, there's this big question mark of 'will this loan be forgiven or will it become a loan?’” Shah said. "I really don't know how they're going to audit the process. All I know is that we need to keep records of it."
Veronica Darnell, who manages Darnell Dentistry in Southlake, said she and her husband opted to keep their staff on payroll during the stay-at-home order. Darnell said that move made for an easier transition when non-emergency dental procedures were allowed to resume May 1.
“Our very valuable team—hygienists and all—rotated answering the phones, and because of that, they really were at the forefront [of the] information we were getting,” Darnell said.
Shah said that after much work upfront, her business is able to resume some sense of normalcy.
"I've been fortunate that I've managed to find pretty much what I need, ... but it's taken quite a bit of ... detective work,” Shah said.