Despite the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing has remained a constant: West Coast University’s dental hygiene clinic has been open and serving the community since July.
Located in Anaheim, the clinic is a teaching facility that offers a variety of no-cost dental services for adults and children, including oral exams, fluoride treatments, periodontal screenings and cleanings.
WCU dental hygiene clinical coordinator Jila Torabi said appointments were paused for about 120 days just as the pandemic shutdown began, but staff and faculty immediately began work on making the necessary modifications needed to reopen.
Several physical improvements were made to the building, Torabi said, and some methods were changed — like no longer using certain tooth-cleaning tools that spray water or produce aerosols.
Additionally, dental hygiene students were outfitted with personal protective equipment and patients undergo a health screening and temperature check before being allowed on the clinic floor. In addition, all patients are contacted 48 hours and 14 days after their clinic visit as part of an extensive contact tracing program to monitor any possible COVID-19 outbreaks.
“It’s all about building trust. Established patients come in, see what measures we are taking, how careful you are and how you treat them,” Torabi said. “There were days that were slower at first, but recently it’s been business as usual.”
Before the pandemic, the clinic provided more than 15,000 patient visits a year to the community. And while numbers were down overall last year, Torabi said there is still plenty of need for the clinic’s services. Right after reopening in July, four clinic sessions a day were scheduled to meet the demand, and some cohorts attended three consecutive clinic sessions a day she said.
With the announcement that dental hygiene students are considered Phase 1a mission-critical workers and are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Torabi said she feels more confident about being able to “keep going as much as we can with an overall goal of keeping everyone safe.”
“Dental offices are open and it’s our job to help these students be prepared to enter the workplace,” she said.