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California is beginning to reopen. So is it safe to go to the dentist?

Guidelines from the state's health department call for practices to have a two week supply of PPE. But some dental officials worry everyone can't get enough PPE.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — Even before making an appointment at Dr. Monica Crook's Sacramento dental practice, patients are pre-screened for coronavirus symptoms. When they do walk into the building, patients are asked to wash their hands and sanitize their shoes on a mat at a sanitation station by the entrance.

Inside the waiting room, there are only two chairs, but Dr. Crook's staff urges patients to wait in their cars until they are ready. Before any dental work is done, patients are screened again for symptoms, have their temperature taken, and are provided a mask if they don't have one. 

"I think it's a very safe environment to be honest with you," said Dr. Crooks.

These extra precautions are part of new guidelines for dental offices issued by the California Department of Public Health, which the California Dental Association says help make close interactions between dental professionals and staff safer.

The guidelines also call for practices to have a two week supply of personal protective equipment — or PPE.

Dr. Stephanie Sandretti reopened her South Sacramento practice, Sacramento Smile Designs, on Tuesday donning extra PPE.

"We are excited to be back, and we are happy be seeing our patients," Sandretti said.

However, as a leader with the California Dental Association, she says there are other practices struggling to obtain enough PPE. The group is calling on the state to provide PPE and economic relief for dentists, many of whom are small business owners. 

"It's been extremely difficult as business owners," said Dr. Sandretti, who is urging patients to come in for their regular check-ups.

Some patients, though, may not be ready to hop back into the dentist chair. 

"If you're not comfortable, you do not have to have this procedure. It can wait," said Dr. Crooks.

Guidelines recommend dentists communicate with the patient's medical provider if necessary and to prioritize dental care that was previously postponed or for conditions that can lead to dental emergencies.

Still, Dr. Sandretti warns people should not fall behind on preventative check ups. Plus, she said, small issues can be caught before they come expensive problems if left untreated.

"If you let things go too long, and if you miss out on your preventative cleanings, your flouride treatments, you can develop, you know, bigger cavities, gum disease things that go unchecked," Dr. Sandretti said. "While you're probably fine to miss a single [preventative appointment], you want to make sure you maintain your relationship with your dentist."

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