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Sacramento dentists prepare to welcome patients back after county loosens restrictions

Dentists are still awaiting guidance from the California Department of Public Health.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — Sacramento County loosened several restrictions this week in its stay-at-home order, making several activities, including dental care, now considered essential.

The new guidelines go into effect Friday at 11:59 p.m. and allows "visiting a health care professional for medical or dental care for chronic conditions or preventative service."

While the order has caused some confusion, dental practices around the area are getting ready to once again serve the public.

Dr. Stephanie Sandretti, a Sacramento dentist and the Government Affairs Council Chair with the California Dental Association, said Sacramento County's order has created a gray area for many.

"Dentists were a little bit caught off guard with that because we haven't received our guidelines from the California Department of Public Health," Dr. Sandretti said.

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Sacramento dentists Dr. Monica Crooks said she's taking the reopening slowly.

"I think dentists are going to be reopening on a very limited, careful basis," Dr. Crooks explained. "And get used to having your face covered with a mask, because until there’s a vaccine, we still have to be careful. The disease does not go away just because they lift the shutdown."

Dr. Amardeep Gill agreed.

"These are bizarre times as we all know. But the bottom line is, even in this pandemic, patients need dental care," Dr. Gill said.

Dentists are required by law to tend to their patients and have been seeing patients throughout the pandemic in emergency situations.

"There were lots and lots of broken teeth, chipped teeth, cracked teeth, and I think that’s from stress," detailed Dr. Crooks. "I think people were grinding and clenching from the stress."

Now, dental office staff have been working hard, taking extra steps to sanitize surfaces and protect both patients and staff.

"I don't know where else you go where you’re sitting in a chair that’s wrapped in plastic and everything else is wrapped in plastic," joked Dr. Crooks. "But we’ve added all of those extras to make people feel comfortable."

Both Crooks and Gill explained that dentists have been dealing with risk of pathogens for years and are keenly aware of dangers. Still, they acknowledged COVID-19 presents a new challenge.

RELATED: Dozens arrested after hundreds storm California's Capitol to protest stay-at-home orders

"This is different, absolutely," said Dr. Gill. "This is much more contagious — dangerous. We're just trying our best to be there again, knowing why we got into healthcare in the first place."

Dr. Gill said she's working to stay abreast of the latest information available.

"Any new guidance that starts coming out from CDC, as well as recommendations from CDA. We're trying to stay on top of it and it’s constantly changing," Dr. Gill said.

For now, Dr. Sandretti said the CDA continues to urge caution.

"The California Dental Association continues to recommend that dentists wait to open up their practices fully or until these guidelines from the California Department of Public Health are released," Dr. Sandretti said.

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Mike Duffy.

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