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Public Health

Reno Dentist Discusses Industry Challenges During Pandemic

Quote from John Bocchi of Sierra Smiles. Bocchi said, "it's a concern for the team, it's a concern for patients, and we are setting ourselves up so that we can become a safe place when people come back to see us."
Jayden Perez
John Bocchi, the owner of Sierra Smiles Reno and Tahoe, responds to employee concerns about coronavirus.

Dentists’ work requires them to be in close contact with people and that comes with problems due to the current pandemic. Scaling back business, grappling with regulations and the risks of coronavirus are some of what dentists have to handle.

KUNR’s Jayden Perez talked with John Bocchi, the owner of Sierra Smiles Reno and Tahoe, about his experiences while operating during the pandemic.

PEREZ: What are some of the risks of dentistry in relation to the coronavirus?

BOCCHI: Well, one of the challenges with dentistry and the coronavirus is that the virus is found in the saliva in the mouth. Some of the procedures that we do within the dental office create aerosols that could contain that virus. When you sneeze or cough you’re putting that virus out there. Some of the procedures we do, such as spraying water in the mouth, cleaning the teeth or working on the teeth can create those aerosols which could cause the virus to become airborne.

PEREZ: Have any employees expressed concerns and are you taking special precautions?

BOCCHI: You know, we’re in a high-risk field, so now we’re making sure to do whatever we can to potentially make our risk as low as possible. When people come back to the dentist it’s going to be a little bit different. There’s going to be a lot more personal protective equipment. There’s going to be face shields, people are going to be wearing gowns, and it’s a concern for everybody. It’s a concern for the team, it’s a concern for patients, and we are setting ourselves up so that we can become a safe place when people come back to see us.  Right now we are only seeing emergencies. We are not doing routine dental care. We are not doing small fillings. We are not doing hygiene procedures. Pretty much if you’re in serious pain, or if you have an infection, we are going to see you at this time. Other than that, we’re putting patients off and rescheduling them in the future, for when we come back to our full load.

PEREZ: Have you been able to acquire PPE and the supplies you need?

BOCCHI: I have. I’ve had to overpay for some of them. Our regular suppliers do not have them right now. I’ve had to buy them on the secondary market as far as an N95 mask. We have everything we need. It’s been difficult to get face shields, but we have found some. Disposable gowns have been difficult. We have gowns; we just have to launder them for every patient. Once we get back to our regular practices that won’t be possible because there will be too many. So, there are some things that I have not been able to get a hold of yet.

PEREZ: Have there been any changes in the dental industry in response to the coronavirus?

BOCCHI: You know, the dental industry as a whole has looked at this very seriously and there is a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes right now. A lot of mandates or recommendations that are going to be coming out to make sure that the dental office is a safe place once we get going again. That’s important because oral care is extremely important for your overall health, and you don’t want to prevent a healthy mouth because you’re afraid to come to the dentist. We will be taking a lot of different extra measures, and things will be a little bit different when people go to the dentist in the future. But it’s for the patient’s protection and the team’s protection.

PEREZ: Have those guidelines been clear and what are some of the guidelines or organizations that you follow as a dentist?

BOCCHI: The challenge is that they’re not clear at all. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, has made recommendations, the American Dental Association has made recommendations, and the American Dental Hygiene Association has made recommendations. But it’s kind of left up to the individual states to decide what recommendations are recommendations, and what will be mandates, or what will be required. Unfortunately, the dental industry hasn’t been very clear on what we’re going to need to do and states are different, state-to-state. One thing is that I hope we get something clear in the near future from our Governor about what we  are expected to do so that we can plan for that.

Jayden Perez is a junior at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

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