In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all gotten accustomed to adapting ourselves to new routines and practices as we work together to interrupt the chain of potential infections. This often means re-examining habits that we’ve taken for granted, or looking at once-positive actions (such as routine hand-shaking in greeting) that may now present a danger we hadn’t considered. It’s with this in mind that we have to look at amenities added to the modern dental office that may no longer be advisable.
Forward-thinking dental offices have worked hard over the years to become welcoming to their patients. Dentists know all too well that fear can keep patients from coming in for routine care, setting up a vicious cycle that results in them needing the invasive or potentially painful procedures they dread. By extending gestures of hospitality such as a coffee station in the waiting room, where patients or those accompanying them can enjoy a beverage while they wait, dental offices could create an atmosphere of relaxation and comfort.
Unfortunately, the wisdom of extending such amenities has to be reconsidered now, given what we know about COVID-19. While scientists are still learning about the virus and how it is transmitted, it is clear that the novel coronavirus can survive for hours on contaminated surfaces and is readily spread through the air in exhaled droplets.
One obvious implication is that in spaces such as waiting rooms, we should be doing what we can to avoid having multiple people touch common surfaces. The handle of a coffee pot or the buttons on a single-serve coffee machine could potentially spread the virus from one user’s hands to another’s. The same could be true of containers of creamer or other accessories at the station.
Another issue is airborne droplets. In recognition of this risk, many current safety orders either recommend or require people to wear masks while out in public, particularly in stores or other environments where it might be difficult to maintain a six-foot distance from others. Providing food or beverages to patients or their escorts encourages them to remove masks when they should be wearing them for their own safety and that of those around them.
The clear conclusion? At least for the time being, the coffee station should go. Before the advent of COVID-19, this kind of attention to patients’ comfort was a nice touch, but now it comes with safety risks that should be avoided. We all hope that eventually the research going on around the globe will come up with both effective treatments and a vaccine. In the meantime, it is up to all of us to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 in the first place.
As always, our dental practice is devoted to maintaining your oral health so we can prevent problems before they occur. This extends to preserving your overall health and ensuring you can visit our office with confidence. Please contact us at 818-772-1280 or at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.