The Woodlands-area dentists feel impact of coronavirus on their practices

WoodSprings Dentistry reopened May 4, after closing like many other area dentists in early March due to coronavirus. (Photo courtesy WoodSprings Dentistry)
WoodSprings Dentistry reopened May 4, after closing like many other area dentists in early March due to coronavirus. (Photo courtesy WoodSprings Dentistry)

WoodSprings Dentistry reopened May 4, after closing like many other area dentists in early March due to coronavirus. (Photo courtesy WoodSprings Dentistry)

Like other small businesses around The Woodlands, dentists were forced to close their doors and are beginning to reopen now that Gov. Gregg Abbott has given them the go ahead.

However, while strategies are in place to keep the number of patients limited, some practices have noted concerns when it comes to moving forward.

Drs. James and Samantha Tejada, who own Woodsprings Dentistry, said the hardest part of the coronavirus was letting their employees go. The Tejadas opened Woodsprings Dentistry in December and had to close after only being operational for a few months. The office reopened May 4 after being cleared by the state May 1.

"The American Dental Association actually recommended we take a break on March 16 to reassess before we were mandated to shut down for safety," James said. "We had just started to get to a pace to stay steadily busy. ... We were shut down essentially for around two months. We still had rent; we still had our monthly operating expenses for our software and equipment. Financially we are very blessed, but I was very concerned about my staff."

The Tejadas said they have a small staff with four employees, all of which are happy to be back working.

Dr. Guy Lewis with Texas Center for Cosmetic Dentistry said during the shutdown his office only saw the most dire of dental emergencies, which meant his business was at a standstill for around 2 1/2 months before reopening May 18.

"A lot of my practice is cleanings, which are not life-or-death essential for most people," Lewis said. "We were given the go ahead to reopen May 1; however, we have been taking precautionary measures, and I've been implementing a lot of things for my staff to protect them."

Both dentistries are taking extra precautions in terms of protecting their staff and patients. Lewis said patients will only be allowed in the lobby in a limited capacity, and the building will be outfitted with UV filters and air purifiers to clean the air circulating through rooms. Staff are wearing N95 masks with an additional mask over it to protect it, as the N95 masks are hard to come by at this time.

"We are also wearing face shields, which protect the face from splatter," Lewis said. "We are wearing caps on our heads to cover our hair and either disposable gowns, and I've ordered a lot of lab jackets and scrub pants so we can change those out for every patient. We have to wash those every day."

Lewis said he is using a disinfectant mist daily to sanitize the patient rooms and equipment to get places that wipes could not get to.

The Tejadas said they are taking similar precautions, though they are asking patients with appointments to wait in their vehicles rather than the lobby area. When a patient is brought in, their temperature is taken and they are screened prior to entering. Samantha said patients are required to use hand sanitizer, and a staff member will open doors to limit contact. Woodsprings Dentistry is also pushing for paperless billing.

"As long as the patients are okay with it, we are trying to collect payment over the phone so they don't have to come in here and use the machine or anything," Samantha said.

Moving forward, a potential difficulty for dental practices could be securing additional protective equipment. Lewis said he could see limited access to supplies preventing other offices from opening in a timely manner, and the Tejadas said it is a concern for their business.

"That's probably the top fear we have right now," James said. "I don't think it's going to be an issue, and I'm hoping as time goes on production is going to ramp up. I think right now, they're trying to preserve enough for the medical fields in case of a second round [of coronavirus cases.] It's challenging to get them, and the prices have inflated significantly. We can't sacrifice that, we don't have the option."

The Tejadas said medical provider 3M has not been releasing equipment to dental vendors at this time, but the hope is for equipment to be released closer to the end of May.
By Andrew Christman
Andrew joined Community Impact Newspaper in early 2019 after moving from Indiana. He is a 2015 graduate from Indiana State University, where he received degrees in English and journalism. He has written for a number of small town publications throughout his career as a reporter.


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