As more of South Florida re-opens for business following months of shutdowns, finding ways to operate safely in the era of the coronavirus is proving to be a significant challenge for many.
Dentist offices could reopen as soon as next week in Miami-Dade, but dentistry is a practice that cannot be performed while maintaining social distancing. Patients can't even wear masks when being examined.
In order to provide an extra dose of hygiene to his office, one local dentist is making use of innovative light technology to address the problem and make his patients feel more reassured.
As soon as you walk into Biscayne Dental and Facial Esthetics, the changes catch your eye: the front desk staff is in full protective gear, including masks and face shields, and patients' temperatures are taken as soon as they enter.
Patients are also required to wear a mask and immediately use hand sanitizer. The waiting room is never crowded, because Dr. Julio Hernandez is limiting his practice to two patients at a time.
“We're obviously a high-risk profession," Hernandez said. "And I don't want to put my staff at risk to I put my patients at risk."
To minimize the risk for staff, everyone must now change into fresh uniforms as soon as they get to the office.
While treating patients, all the workers wear full protective gear, including gowns, N95 masks and face shields.
Dentistry creates the kind of tiny particles that can float through the air, landing on any surface and easily transmit COVID-19. So after every procedure, the exam room is disinfected by hand and a tall, slender device is wheeled into the room: it's called Violight, and it's a portable UV sterilization light created by a local Miami company.
“I spent this quarantine doing a lot of research, figuring out what technologies [are] out there to make it easier for us to open and open safely,” said Dr. Hernandez. “
Any time you put the light in the room, you close the doors, you turn on the light, and in 20 minutes it will sterilize anything it touches. And we do this in between every patient.”
Biscayne Dental has also invested in air cleaning technology which uses a Hema filter and UV light to cleanse 2,400 square feet every hour.
It’s expensive technology at a time when his practice can only see a fraction of the patients, but Dr. Hernandez believes it’s necessary for the new normal, at least for now.
“We want to be able to still offer these treatments and we want to do it safely. I'm happy to come back to work. I'm happy to be able to take care of my patients again," he said.