Dentists adapt to pandemic reality, add patient fee for PPE

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – After returning from a nearly six-week closure, dentists in our area are facing the reality of wearing layers of personal protective equipment while treating patients.

Doctor James Mills has been a dentist for 30 years; he owns Market Common Dentistry. Mills says, the PPE is uncomfortable and is hard to come by.

“There’s a little price gouging here and there, it’s difficult to get,” Mills said. “We’re doing the best we can with what we have. We may run out, but we have a counter measure in place for when we do.”

Mills described wearing multiple face masks and a shield like breathing through SCUBA gear.

He and the other dentists and hygienists at the practice wear an N-95 mask, a surgical face mask, a face shield, hair cover, disposable gown and shoe covers.

“The reality is social distancing in dentistry is a conflict in terms; you can’t do it,” he explained.

Because they are wearing more PPE and having to change it for each patient, his practice, like many others, faces a financial burden to maintain their stock of protective gear. 

To help curb some of the cost, they started charging a $15 PPE fee for patients.

“Doctor Mills wasn’t sure if he should charge for PPE and he went back and forth and calculating the costs, it was a high cost and we’re not charging what we pay to the patients, but we did have to tag along an additional fee,” practice manager, Lisa Yazici said.

Yazici and Doctor Mills say, the fee was met with minimal criticism from patients.

“Every patient they understand and they are thankful that we are providing the security for their health and taking as many precautionary measures that we do,” Yazici said.

In addition to the additional protective equipment, there are also operational changes at Market Common Dentistry. 

Appointments are blocked for longer time windows to allow for dentists to change PPE and for the treatment rooms to be cleaned.

Patients wait in their cars before an employee comes to ask them a series of screening questions, takes their temperature and gives them a face mask to wear inside. Patients then walk themselves to a treatment room where all of the equipment, chairs and lights are covered to prevent contamination.

Doctor Mills says these changes are complicated, but were put in place to make more than just patients feel comfortable.

“Making the staff feel comfortable and safe; those are big things,” he said.

To read more about the guidelines Market Common Dentistry and practices across the country are facing, click here.

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