Dentists, optometrists in Tomball and Magnolia ease back into seeing patients

Dentists and optometrists start to see more patients as stay-at-home orders are lifted. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Dentists and optometrists start to see more patients as stay-at-home orders are lifted. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Dentists and optometrists start to see more patients as stay-at-home orders are lifted. (Courtesy Fotolia)

With stay-at-home orders ending and Texas entering Phase 2 of its reopening, optometrists and dentists are seeing business start to bounce back.

Jenna Clifton, office manager of Tomball Vision Clinic, said the clinic was closed for two days during the pandemic, before reopening after being deemed an essential business.

“[Business] did pick up recently, but it has been back and forth on a week to week basis,” she said.

Clifton said the clinic has reduced its hours to 9 a.m.-4 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, and 9 a.m.-noon on Fridays.

As the clinic employs a small number of staff and only has one doctor, Clifton said they have been able to maintain office capacity at less than 10 people.

“We do ask that anyone not really needed [to accompany patients] can wait in the car,” she said.

Clifton said the biggest areas hit for the clinic during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have been sales and insurance payments.

“This week has been fuller than the previous week, and we think we might pick up our Friday to be 9 a.m.-4 p.m. as well,” she said. “But we don’t know if this is because of the regular fluctuation or because the stay-at-home order has been lifted.”

Clifton said while layoffs were necessary at the clinic, one employee considered at-risk for COVID-19 has voluntarily stayed home.

Like optometrists, dentists have also started to see an increase in clients said Sonya Squyres, office manager for Gary Squyres DDS, a Magnolia-based dental practice. Squyres said routine cleanings have recently resumed.

“As far as hygiene, which is when you come and get your teeth cleaned, that has picked up right back where we left off” she said. “With patients that have work that needs to be done, it’s 50/50. Some are still scared to come out in public.”

Squyres said employees take their temperatures twice a day and wear personal protective equipment that has been approved by the Centers for Disease Control.

Likewise, Jonathan Sanderson, a partner at Cutbirth, Sanderson Family Dental Group, which has offices in Tomball, Magnolia and Huntsville, said business has increased after they were allowed to reopen beginning May 6.

“Since we have come back we have been extremely busy,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s [because of] the two month layoff and there is such a backlog of work to be done, but our practice was growing before and growing even more rapidly now."

Sanderson said while the practice was closed for two months, dentists were only seeing patients on an emergency-basis to help prevent them from having to go to a hospital.

“It had a big impact on our business, it was really tough,” he said. “Had it not been for the loans from the government it would have been really difficult to keep going.”

Sanderson said while some employees had to be furloughed during the closure, they have all since been rehired.

“Not only have we brought them back, but we are hiring in all positions now,” he said.

Additionally, Sanderson said social distancing guidelines have been added to ensure the safety of patients and staff.

“The biggest thing patients will notice off the bat is we are not using our waiting room at all,” he said “When they pull into the parking lot they will see a sign with some phone numbers and they text their name and vehicle description to the front desk ... [and the front desk] goes and gets them from their car.”

Masks and surgical gowns are also worn while procedures are being carried out, Sanderson said.

“Whatever we need to do to keep our patients safe we’ll do,” he said.


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