Published: 12:22, 11 June 2020
| Updated: 16:14, 11 June 2020
A dental surgery has revealed the long list of precautions it is taking since reopening, to make sure patients and staff are kept as safe as possible.
Fourways Dental Surgery in Borough Green has invested in high-grade PPE, has a whistle system so two people don't pass one another in the corridor, and makes everyone leave the building for a whole hour after invasive procedures have been carried out.
Principal dentist Dr Aviva Riley says "we might have gone over the top but it's better to be safe than sorry", after spending the last few months working tirelessly to prepare for reopening on Monday.
Since the lockdown, staff at Fourways, in Sevenoaks Road, have been offering phone and video consultations, only seeing patients in person if there is no other option.
Now, the protocol has returned to all patients being seen at the surgery - but only if they have an appointment.
When a patient arrives, they call from the car park and the front door will be unlocked.
Their temperature is then taken and a risk assessment carried out to establish whether the person is vulnerable for any reason - extra caution will be taken in this case.
Patient, James, speaks about his recent trip to the dentist
As they enter the surgery, the patient is not to touch any door handles or bannisters.
To prevent any cross contamination, when a patient or employee is walking through a shared section of the building, they will call out or whistle before doing so to make sure paths do not cross.
Staff wear gowns, gloves, visors and high-tech, individually-fitted masks.
If any invasive, drill procedures are carried out, everyone leaves the surgery for an hour - as this is roughly how long it takes for the aerosol to settle - which could potentially spread infected particles through the air.
After every patient has been seen, the surgery is cleaned.
Just two of the surgeries are being used at the moment out of a total of four.
Dr Riley said: "We've been prepared for months and have got the highest level of protection and ordered PPE well in advance - we haven't stockpiled though.
"We were told 10 days before that we were allowed to reopen, which isn't that long, but it was fine as we had been expecting it any day. However, it was still really stressful opening up as everything has changed.
"It's been really busy but I'm so proud of my team - we are really limited as to what we can do at the moment but they have all been so dedicated."
She added: "People are only allowed to come in on their own now and we know people can be nervous about visiting the dentist, and understand us all in 'nuclear gear' won't help, so we try to warn them about it beforehand and have also got some brightly-coloured and patterned hats to wear to make it less intimidating."
The Borough Green practice, which offers both private and NHS treatments, says it has not received any government funding to help with new measures and so has had to cover all costs itself.
"I'm just happy to be open - the money will come later," said Dr Riley.
She added the government advice on dentists reopening has been "confusing" so she has taken "the best advice and built on it".
"It's about getting a balance between doing treatments that could become serious and considering the risk of Covid-19."
Fourways is still only offering certain treatments, with check-ups and cosmetic procedures currently unavailable.
Staff also plan to work some weekends and evenings in the coming weeks to get through the backlog of patients needing to be seen.