Dentist seeing delay in receiving personal protective equipment

SPOKANE, Wash. — Safety is important during the pandemic. Many businesses are doing what they can to protect you. That includes places like dental offices, which are also facing their own challenges—keeping themselves safe, as well.

When you go get work done at a dentist office, it may look a little different.

Dental assistant Sammy Miller says they’ve had to pack on a little more than usual at Arbour Family Dental. The surgical caps are new, along with the long sleeves they wear and face shields. It’s all in addition to the regular mask they’ve always worn.

“We go through stuff pretty fast, so we’re really having to stay on top of our stock because we know if we run out, then we won’t have anything for a few weeks,” Miller said.

Right now, personal protective equipment is tough to come by. The office is stocked just fine, but that’s because they are constantly ordering.

“We used to order just when we needed things, now we order all the time, nonstop. It’s just this game of let’s order, and then it’ll be on back order and then it’ll trickle in as it trickles in,” said Michael Davis, the dentist and owner at Arbour Family Dental.

Masks and other PPE used to come in two or three days after it’s been ordered. Now, it can take up to four weeks. Miller said she placed orders in May that still haven’t shown up yet.

Instead of ordering from one or two suppliers, they’ve been buying from five or six, too.

“The prices have kind of gone up like crazy,” Miller said. “A thing of wipes used to cost $8.50. Now it’s $20 or $40 for the same box of wipes.”

No matter the price, or the struggle they’re facing in getting PPE, they have to keep ordering it to be in stock. Otherwise, they’d have to close.

“It’s a lot of ups and downs. You’re looking at, especially from a job like this, where our number one priority is the health care of our patients, but you have to balance that with if you don’t make money, your doors can’t be open,” Davis said.

Other than the PPE supply issue, Davis said they’ve seen a lot of patients coming in and still getting work done. They expected it to be slow when they reopened.

Davis said in the dental profession, they’ve always had good cleaning procedures that have been effective.

“The work that we do is important to the overall systemic health of the community and the people. I just think they should be confident they can come in and be safe and get the work they need to,” Davis said.