Elective medical procedures and screenings take on new normal

Posted on 22 May 2020 at 3:44pm

COLUMBIA – One local dentist's office is seeing almost 90% of their normal capacity before the COVID-19 pandemic and is back to doing elective procedures. 

All American Dental reopened completely when the state’s stay-at-home order ended. They open at 8 a.m. every weekday, now not just for emergency procedures.

From routine cleaning to whitening to dental implants, All American Dental is offering all dental services, even those previously classified as “non-essential,” with additional safety precautions in place.  

“We weren’t doing any routine cleanings or what we would consider routine fillings or anything like that during the time period,” All American Dental owner and dentist John Wietholder said. “It was more emergent needs.”

While Missouri’s stay-at-home order was in place, All American Dental only saw upwards of ten patients a day – a large decline from before the pandemic where the office could see upwards to 50 patients in one day. Wietholder said the office was treating emergency cases like large cavities or patients with swelling.

“Things that are elective in dentistry are only elective in my opinion for a period of time, and then we have to get back to regular maintenance so elective things don’t become emergent needs,” Wietholder said.

But while the dental office is seeing almost the same amount of people each day, it looks different. Wietholder said patients are told to wait in their cars instead of the waiting room inside. Magazines and all toys in the waiting room have also been removed. All patients are required to take their temperature when entering and must fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire that includes questions about if they have been in contact with someone who may have the virus.

Employees are continuing to wear masks, gowns and gloves.

“We had that baseline of universal precautions before with our protection, and that remains in place,” Wietholder said.

Similarly, at MU Health Care, some elective procedures and screenings, like mammograms, are now available for the public to schedule.

According to MU Health Care radiologist Megha Garg, before the pandemic, upwards of 150 mammograms were performed each day at MU Health Care. She said while the state stay-at-home order was in place, the number of mammograms performed each day were “way, way low.”

“It is not just purely emergent procedures now,” Garg said. “We are welcoming patients back and encouraging them to maintain those procedures that are good or essential for their overall health.”

Garg said following university guidelines set in place under the recommendation of infectious disease experts and the current prevalence of COVID-19 in Boone County, some live-saving procedures that are not emergent, but still needed will resume.

At MU Health Care, there is a strict no visitor policy. All patients are screened at the door: temperatures will be taken and questions about COVID-19 contact will be asked. She said coming into the hospital is just ask risky as going to the grocery store.

“It’s no more than if you would step out of your house for anything else,” Garg said.

Mammogram patients can expect screenings at the hospital door, social distancing in the waiting rooms, doctors wearing masks and additional cleaning near the mammogram machines.

“It’s an individual decision at that point, but we would encourage, and all I can say is that our facility is following all the precautions and the guidelines,” Garg said.

For more information on what procedures are available now at MU Health Care or All American Dental, visit their websites.