Adapting to Coronavirus, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Dental Therapists Provide Outdoor Dental Care
November 12, 2020
"Why not provide dental care outside?"
That's the idea that Dr. Ray Dailey and dental hygienist Leah Thibert brainstormed when the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community's dental clinic had to limit patient visits due to COVID-19. The staff had split into two teams, which were staying separate from each other in case one became sick. The clinic was focusing its efforts on emergency care. Dailey and Thibert realized that outdoor dental services would be a way to get both teams working at the same time while keeping them physically separated, enabling them to provide more care for the community.
All it took was purchasing two tents and a lawn chair, as they already had one portable dental chair. The outdoor services were in action by June 10. While Dailey and Thibert initiated this adapted approach to care, they soon transitioned it to their two dental therapist colleagues, Sarah Chagnon and Asiah Gonzalez. Shifting the operations to the dental therapists freed up the dentists to focus on more complex procedures inside the clinic walls.
In this outside space, Chagnon and Gonzales offer many non-aerosolizing procedures, to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. They also provide minimally invasive oral health services, including: dental exams (complete with x-rays); sealants; noninvasive fillings; and other topical treatments.