New rooms enable COVID-19-safe dentistry
New rooms enable COVID-19-safe dentistry

Sometimes, dental pain is so severe, or the consequences of delaying treatment so profound, that neither COVID-19 nor any other obstacle can stand in the way.

With such cases in mind Mark Latta, DMD, MS, dean of the Creighton University School of Dentistry, successfully applied for a $100,000 federal grant that permitted the construction of two “negative pressure rooms” at the dental school.

A negative pressure room controls air flow so that all viral presences are captured and expelled. The room adds to precautions already taken at the school, which include installation of two Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization air disinfectant systems.

The Dr. Dobleman rooms located within the radiology area of the adult clinic have been remodeled and now house the negative pressure rooms.

“The reason we asked for money for negative pressure rooms is so that we can treat patients who we know are COVID positive,” Latta says. “We would ordinarily defer elective dental treatment until they were feeling better, or were no longer positive, but we have patients who may have an urgent dental need — they’re in pain, and we can’t wait days or weeks to treat their problem.”

Latta stresses that the rooms are intended to treat people who are already patients at the school — some of many years standing — who have been diagnosed COVID-positive. They are not intended as tools to recruit new patients, although Latta fully expects that the number of existing patients diagnosed with COVID will increase.

“One of the interesting facts is that 60% of our patients come from those ZIP codes in Douglas County where 90% of the positive patients have been discovered,” he says. “So we know that we may end up with patients who we have been serving for years — who are continuing care patients — who will have COVID and are infectious but who we still have an ethical obligation to treat.”

The opening of the two negative pressure rooms will make that possible.

Joseph Franco, Jr., DDS, chief dental officer at the School of Dentistry, says the rooms deploy exhaust systems that draw the air out of the room and deposit it outside the building while drawing clean air in from corridors and hallways.

“That’s why the term ‘negative’ is used,” Franco says. “The air being pushed out of the room exceeds the air being drawn in. That removes any kind of aerosol that’s in the air, any kind of bacteria, flushes it out and pushes it to the outside.”

The project is supported by funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) from the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, CFDA Number 21.019.