Local dentist office completely reopens, taking extreme safety precautions


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Now that we are in phase one of reopening, businesses are being challenged to serve customers under strict new guidelines including dentists.

Riccobene Associates Family Dentistry is one practice with three offices in the Cape Fear that reopened at the beginning of the month.

So far, the business is handling the challenge. Safety is taken seriously as soon as you walk through the doors.

Wearing a face mask, filling out a special questionnaire, getting a temperature check before being serviced, and taking additional precautions are the new norm.

Owner Dr. Michael Riccobene said the offices now are not what they used to be.

“We have half the chairs in the waiting rooms, so we’re doing social distancing in the lobby,” Riccobene stated. “But if the patient isn’t comfortable waiting in the lobby, we’ll let them wait in their car and will text them when it’s time to come in for their visit.

They are also limiting patients to one guest while being serviced. Riccobene said as healthcare professionals, it is their job to prepare differently.

“We’re used to dealing with aerosols, we’re use to dealing with hepatitis,” Riccobene said. “We’re use dealing with HIV, we’re used to dealing with tuberculosis.”

He added that COVID-19 has required them to take extreme measures.

“We’ve installed air scrubbers throughout the office, which literally is recycling air five times an hour, and ridding it of dangerous viruses, bacteria, things of that nature” Riccobene stated. “We’ve put up some barrier walls in order to contain ourselves in certain areas.”

He said they have also sprayed a protective coating to kill bacteria and viruses, which is expected to last 60 days.

Riccobene stated they are doing even more disinfecting.

Employees are also wearing N95 masks, face shields, gowns, bonnets, booties, and more for extra protection.

Employee Rebekah George said it has been an adjustment that they are committed to figuring out.

“It is an open bay area, so we try to keep one open chair in between. As you can tell we have all of our PPE, so that was a little bit different, the N95 masks you had to get use to,” George said. “But they’re wonderful, and I am so happy to have them available for us.”

Patient Johnnie McBride expressed how thankful he was that the office would go so far to keep him safe.

“We just got to keep it that way until we can find a cure and solution to all of this.”

Riccobene said they are also charging a ten dollar fee to help offset the cost of added PPE and safety equipment.

“We’re going to be very reasonable about it. If a family of three comes in, and they’re coming in and we’re not really having to do extra for each individual patient, then we’ll charge that one time,” Riccobene said.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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