Marvin Walder/The Broadside
Dentistry is an important component of personal health, and especially during a pandemic, it’s good to keep up healthy habits. But how do you perform dentistry during a respiratorily contagious virus-induced pandemic? The current solution took Dr. Hallie McNaughton and her team a while to figure out, but now that her business, Alpenglow Dental, has survived its initial trial by fire, they’re ready to give back to the community in the best way they can.
Located on 929 SW Simpson Ave in Bend, Alpenglow Dental opened its doors in March of 2020, quite literally the day before the state-mandated shutdown to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For Dr. Hallie, it was definitely a very stressful time. The business she had been dreaming to start was now stuck, unable to provide any services while still bearing many startup costs. Eventually, they were able to service dental emergency patients, and as new research about COVID-19 came out, they were able to start implementing countermeasures to resume treating patients.
“We were relying on the American Dental Association, the Oregon Health Association, the CDC. We were checking every authority on what they recommended and then compiled all of that into a protocol to keep patients and staff healthy through COVID,” Dr. Hallie explained.
Many of the countermeasures, such as social distancing and masking, are what you’d expect. Dr. Hallie has also implemented some things that are completely new to dental offices. The installation of a medical-grade air filtration system to reduce airborne aerosols and the on-site cleaning of scrubs have further contributed to the safety protocols at Alpenglow Dental. All of these things obviously come at a cost, but to Dr. Hallie, they were the highest priority.
Dr. Hallie adamantly stated: “There was an increased expense, but it’s something you just have to do. There’s really no question on it. You have to protect your patients and your staff.”
As a result of these efforts, Alpenglow Dental was able to treat dental emergencies throughout the pandemic. And Dr. Hallie felt that it was of vital importance for the community that they would be able to do so.
“A lot of dental offices just completely shut their doors, but we remained kind of partially open because we were familiar with the rules regarding dental emergencies. At the time I felt the need to really help patients stay out of the urgent cares and emergency rooms because dental emergencies are really emergencies… We weren’t sure how hard it (COVID-19) was going to hit Central Oregon, so in March and April last year we just did everything we could to safely see emergencies,” Dr. Hallie said.
Eventually through the easing of restrictions, and the new research and vaccines for COVID, Alpenglow Dental can again provide normal dental services to all of its customers. As they treat new and returning patients, Dr. Hallie said that they have seen some negative trends in people’s dental health as a result of the pandemic.
Dr. Hallie explained that: “I have seen a lot of people kind of dealing with depression and anxiety, and they’re just not taking as good a care of themselves in general, that also includes the mouth. With anxiety, a lot more teeth grinding and clenching… And with the additional stress of the clenching and grinding, a lot more tooth fractures, that’s been really common.”
Another big aspect of the poor dental health many are experiencing is the lapse in dental care many people have had due to the pandemic. Dr. Hallie expressed the importance of good dental hygiene in keeping someone healthy, which is especially important during a public health crisis.
Dr. Hallie said that: “The people that waited through all of this, which is perfectly reasonable not to want to go to a dentist during COVID, are now behind in their dental treatment… I would say if you haven’t had a checkup since COVID started, now might be good to get it in.”
Avoiding common dental health issues is important to keep in consideration, however, there are a few good things to come from the experiences of the past year as well. Many of the new protocols and equipment that keep staff and patients safe are likely here to stay. Also, the fact that Alpenglow Dental survived and even grew during the pandemic, means that Alpenglow Dental is in a good position to give back to the community that supported them throughout it. Dr. Hallie expressed that she is very thankful for her team, and the Central Oregon community, for supporting Alpenglow Dental, and for helping her continue pursuing her dream of dentistry work in Central Oregon. A way Alpenglow Dental has planned to give back is by hosting an event that will offer free dental work to veterans in the community. The event is planned to happen over two days in June, and anyone interested can contact Alpenglow Dental through the information on its website.