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    Navy Dentistry Confronts COVID-19

    Navy Dentistry Confronts COVID-19

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Dowell | 201119-N-JD875-1001 ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 19, 2020) – Lt. Cmdr. Edmond Rexha...... read more read more



    Story by Lt. Sarah Ermoshkin 

    Naval Health Clinic Annapolis

    By Lt. Sarah Ermoshkin, DC, USN

    ANNAPOLIS, Md. – During the initial phase of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Defense issued guidance postponing all elective surgeries, invasive procedures, and dental procedures for 60 days.
    The order to postpone all but emergent cases went into effect primarily to protect providers and patients from exposure and transmitting the virus to others and to conserve equipment and supplies. Now, nearly eight months later, the Navy has adopted a new approach to the virus.

    “We did not know what we were initially dealing with other than it could be spread by water droplets,” said Capt. Walter Brafford, commanding officer of Naval Health Clinic Annapolis, which is the parent command for the Brigade Medical Unit located at the Unites States Naval Academy (USNA). Bancroft Hall, the midshipmen’s dormitory, has medical and dental offices located on the ground floor. Any midshipman who feels unwell can immediately self-report symptoms and quickly be placed in an isolation space until the results are received.

    This is not the first time dentistry has faced an invisible enemy. In fact, universal precautions came into effect largely because of the HIV epidemic. Treating everyone as a potential carrier of disease is now known as “universal precautions,” which protect healthcare workers from patients’ blood and body fluids using eye protection and a new set of gloves, gown, and face masks for each patient. These precautions are universally applied because it is unknown whether someone has a contagious disease or condition.

    We may not know who has an asymptomatic case of COVID-19. Along with the normal universal precautions, additional measures have been added which include COVID-19 screening questions, temperature checks, mouth rinses, N95 face masks, face shields, disposable gowns, and high-powered air-filters for each dental operatory space.

    “Adding a new layer of personal protective equipment wasn’t a difficult move for military dentists, and for that matter, any dentist to make,” said Brafford, who is a periodontist by trade.

    Cmdr. Christopher Parks, director of dental services, manages a team of eight general dentists, four specialists, four hygienists, and a support staff of nearly 30 people at the Naval Academy.

    “Since June we have had nearly 3,900 patient encounters and to date, none of my dentists, hygienists, or support staff have contracted COVID-19. That tells me that the personal protective equipment everyone is wearing and the COVID-19 screening questions, in combination with a compliant patient population, is working to protect my team from infection,” said Parks.

    The American Dental Association recently published conclusions that support the Navy’s approach to dentistry. In their study estimating COVID-19 prevalence and infection control practices among U.S. dentists, they noted that, “As of June 2020, an estimated 0.9% (95% confidence interval, 0.5 to 1.5) of U.S. dentists have or have had COVID-19,” concluding that current infection control practices in the dental setting were sufficient.

    “We are now entering the second wave of COVID-19 cases, but this time we feel prepared to continue practicing dentistry,” said Parks. “Before the senior class of midshipmen complete the fall semester, we will have completed their annual exams and identified who are a priority for treatment.”

    “Safety of our people is our number one priority,” stated Capt. Brafford. “It’s good to know that the additional safety protocols and protective equipment put in place is keeping our people safe.”

    Since 1845, NHCA has been committed to exemplifying the best of Navy Medicine though innovation, quality care, technology, talent management, and leadership. NHCA provides health support in six locations across three states. At its core is the care and commissioning readiness of the more than 4,400 members of the Brigade of Midshipmen. NHCA providers contribute to athlete development on and off the field, and support the Naval Academy as team physicians for 33 varsity sports teams and 26 club sports.




    Date Taken: 11.20.2020
    Date Posted: 11.20.2020 10:26
    Story ID: 383447
    Location: ANNAPOLIS, MD, US 

    Web Views: 377
    Downloads: 1