Dental offices in Houston reopen with new protocols amid COVID-19

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Under phase one of Gov. Greg Abbott's plan to reopen Texas, all medical professionals can now take non-emergency patients.

However, doctors and dentists are recommended to instill safety protocols to protect their patients and staff. For dentists, especially, layers of protection are actually the new guideline.

Under new emergency rules from the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, dentists must wear an N95 or KN95 mask, full gown, face shield and head cover.

"Our profession is probably the closest you can get to treating someone so intimately," explained Dr. Terri Alani with the Greater Houston Dental Society.

Getting the necessary equipment to reopen safely might be difficult for some.

"We're sort of the forgotten profession," said Alani. "This is something that we're all trying to get our hands on: face shields, N95 masks, disposable gowns, gloves. Things that we have never had a problem getting a hold of now have become quite expensive and very difficult."

Dr. Margaret Childers, a dentist in Katy, is feeling the same pinch.

"We got on the phone first thing this morning and called all our dental suppliers. Our major dental suppliers that we normally use on a regular basis did not have availability," said Dr. Childers.

She says the personal protective equipment that she needs for her entire staff in order to reopen is out of stock.

"The first company that had those available told us we would not be receiving them for 3 to 5 business days, so that puts us into next week for sure," explained Childers.

Memorial Hermann primary care physicians are also easing into the reopening in order to meet new protocols.

If you do head to a dentist, doctor or pediatrician soon, be prepared for a new process.

You'll be screened ahead of your appointment and again once you arrive.

The front desk staff may take your temperature and ask you to wear a mask.

Magazines and children's toys are being removed from waiting areas.

Patients may skip the waiting area all together and have to wait in the car instead.

Most doctors are also asking patients to come alone unless the patient needs a caregiver.

For pediatric appointments, doctors are asking only one parent accompany the child.

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