A Dental Patient’s Experience Navigating The COVID-19 Pandemic
Recently we spoke with Nick, a patient who needed an emergency root canal during the COVID-19 pandemic, and discussed with him what his experience was like.
Tell us about what happened, and why you needed to seek dental treatment.
What had happened was one of my fillings had basically cracked and come out through just eating, probably some trail mix or something like that. It seemed fine, and then I ate some Thai food. A jalapeno seed got down into where the filling was and it just created this immense pain.
Were you able to contact your dentist right away when this happened? Or did you have to seek out a new practitioner?
I had actually just moved to a new area in Seattle, so I didn’t have a particular dentist picked out in my area. So my girlfriend and I went through a search trying to find an emergency dentist. We called four or five practices and kept getting this notification, “Our office is currently closed,” but no further instruction on how to contact them or let them know that, “Hey, I have an emergency situation.”
We ended up finding and contacting a dentist, Dr. Scott, who was available. He answered right away–I think he had his phone forwarded to a cell phone. That dentist was able to schedule me for the next day.
How was the experience once you arrived for your appointment?
Dr. Scott’s office was close, less than a mile from where I’m located. It was just him there when I arrived; his staff and hygienists weren’t working, so nobody was there helping him out. He had a mask and gloves ready for me when I arrived, and he was masked for the whole visit.
The first thing I had to do was sit through 15 minutes of filling out intake forms, you know, a dental history form and all of that, by hand. It was excruciating. I was still just in extreme pain, sitting there, trying to get my paperwork done so I could go in and have my teeth fixed. It was a miserable experience.
That sounds pretty bad. How was treatment once you got into the operatory?
Honestly, Dr. Scott is a really great dentist. The whole procedure took three and a half, maybe four hours; he talked me through everything he was doing and got me taken care of. Once I went home, he texted me during the whole recovery process, asking how my pain was. He definitely knew his stuff, overall really attentive and on top of his game.
It’s weird, in all I’m really happy I found him. But the process of searching through all those closed dental practices was rough, and filling out the paperwork was just terrible. That initial ‘getting into the chair’ experience was kind of a nightmare. You know, just being in that much pain and then having to do all those steps beforehand.
Did your experience with Dr. Scott change your expectations for visiting dentists in the future?
Oh, absolutely. An easy-to-navigate website would be a great start, maybe the option to schedule an appointment online so I don’t have to call so many empty offices. It should have information on COVID-19 precautions they’re taking, too, so I can know what to do when I arrive.
Being able to fill out forms at home would be ideal, too. Getting the COVID screening form and health history and all that filled out ahead of time, just so I can be in that seat faster, and be taken care of.
You know, if I have a dental emergency, I don’t have the mental capacity to sit there and try to look at a bunch of web pages, find a practice that’s open, and schedule something ASAP. Streamlining the steps leading up to that–making it easy to schedule, arrive, follow safety procedures, and get treated–will really help me feel comfortable when I next see a dentist.
Want to learn how other dentists have reopened and ensured safety at their practices? Read
our interview with Dr. John Nakhla
to discover proven strategies. Looking to provide the smooth, simplified experience that today’s patients are looking for from a dental practice? Check out our features like
to discover how to make scheduling appointments with your practice safer and easier than ever before.