Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

Dana Point Dental has received the green light to see patients. As of Monday, May 18, Dr. Lilian Cifarelli, Dr. Amir Larijani and Dr. Ashish Vashi resumed modified operations after previously having to close its doors in observance of state directives.

Dr. Lilian Cifarelli and the team at Dana Point Dental are taking additional precautions to ensure a sterile and safe environment to welcome back patients.
Photo: Lillian Boyd

Office management now undergoes a set of screening procedures prior to setting an appointment with clients. Once patients state they haven’t experienced COVID-19 related symptoms or done international travel within a certain time frame, management proceeds to set up an appointment.

When a patient arrives for an appointment, they are asked to wait in their car and call the office to alert them of their arrival. When staff is ready to see the patient, the patient has their temperature taken upon entering the office.

Dana Point Dental has also brought on additional staff in order to assemble a sterilization team to sterilize the patient room, or operatory, after each appointment.

“The office could not be more sterile,” said Cifarelli, who has practiced dentistry for more than 20 years. “We might even be going overboard with the cleaning. But we’ll do whatever it takes to give ourselves peace of mind and our customers peace of mind.”

To allow time for cleaning, patients are scheduled further apart from each other. Standard hours were previously 8 a.m.-5 p.m. But after Dana Point Dental’s soft reopening, office hours are 7 a.m.-7 p.m., with split shifts.

Cifarelli says patients were already asked to rinse their mouths prior to procedures to reduce bacteria as much as possible. Now, patients use an altered formula of rinse with more hydrogen peroxide. Patients also are required to wash their hands and place their belongings in a specific area to reduce any cross contamination.

In addition to face masks, dentists also put on face shields.

“You definitely feel warmer while wearing the shields, so we’ve had to have the air running cold,” Cifarelli said. “We tell our patients ahead of time to dress for a colder environment, and we’ve also invested in blankets that we allow patients to keep after use.”

Dana Point Dental first closed after the governor’s stay-at-home order was issued on March 19, leaving some confusion in the dental care community as to whether dental visits were considered essential.

The following day, the California Dental Association (CDA) recommended that California dentists suspend all dental care except for emergency treatment to minimize the risk of virus exposure and to preserve the supply of critical personal protective equipment for health care workers who are treating COVID-19 patients.

On April 7, the California Department of Public Health released a new directive for dental practices that provides specific guidance about clinical care delivery during the COVID-19 crisis. The guidance directed dentists to suspend providing dental care, with the exception of emergencies, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Amid the closure, Cifarelli would check in with patients over phone calls, text messages and Skype calls.

On May 8, state officials released guidance on resuming deferred and preventative dental care.

“If you’re closed for eight weeks, there are patients who are in mid-treatment,” Cifarelli said. “A patient who had a small cavity could now have a big cavity. A patient who needed a filling could now need a root canal.”

Cifarelli adds that oral health has a correlation with physical and mental health.

“We know that the bacteria in your mouth impacts your whole body, especially your heart,” Cifarelli said. “This is the first part of your digestive system, so it’s not a separate entity from the rest of your body. It’s where everything enters your body.”

Cifarelli continued to use social media and technology to connect with patients and prepare them for upcoming appointments.

“As dentists, we are accustomed to having an intimate connection with our patients,” Cifarelli said. “We do as much as we can to make sure they’re comfortable. We get to know them in a personal way. We continue to find ways to adapt and make adjustments to make sure our patients continue to feel cared for and comfortable.”

Dana Point Dental specializes in cosmetic dentistry and general dentistry. For more information, visit danapointdental.com or call 949.661.5841.

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