Outing Report, In Which I Venture To The Dentist


Since several of you were kind enough to ask about my great adventure, I thought I would give a detail accounting. Also to record the moment. Either we will reach a point when we no longer have to go through these gymnastics. In which case, we will forget what it was like. Or such routines will become standard. In which case, we won’t remember the novelty of it all. [Venturing Out]

My tooth was, in fact, fractured. Fortunately, mostly above the gum line. This was an important point to the dentist. The wiggly piece was found and removed.

My dentist recommended an onlay, which is like a crown but leaves more tooth. The difference between that and a big honking filling – of which I have several – that the onlay is ceramic while the filling is composite. I still have a few old silver fillings as well. I tell you, my teeth are a wonderland for dentists.

Once the loose piece was gone, the tooth had to be drilled to remove part of a filling and shape the tooth for the onlay. Gaa. Hate drilling. Who doesn’t? They numbed the area but you can still hear the sound, feel the vibration, and smell the burning. I say again, gaa.

Two hours later, I was the proud processor of a temporary onlay. I go back in three weeks once the permanent gizmo is ready. More work than I was expecting, but I probably should not have been surprised. I was thinking crown. I forgot all the shaping that comes before. Selective memory.

That night, I was worn out. Two hours flat out in a dental chair being drilled and prodded and holding your mouth open and waiting for the numbing to fail. Plus the coagulant in the Novocaine gives me the shivers.

Despite my earlier reservations, none of my exhaustion came from Coronavirus concerns.

Precautions – Outside
The downtown area was quiet. The sidewalks were close to vacant. I walked past maybe a dozen people in four blocks. From what I’m hearing, walking past someone outside is a low-risk situation.

Precautions – Inside
As I said in my update, the anti-virus procedures were outstanding. The entire time, I felt confident that people had done their best to protect me and themselves.

When I entered the dental building, I only got through the first set of doors before I was greeted by gowned and masked folks. I had my temperature taken from my forehead. I gave my name. Was offered hand sanitizer. They couldn’t find my name on their lists, so I was taken into the lobby to be looked up on the computer.

A computer has been set up at a temporary table in the middle of the lobby. The computer operator had gown, mask, and face shield. Probably gloves as well, but I can’t recall. Another computer propped on the receptionist’s counter was using facial recognition to count the number of people in the room. I was #10. I was located on the list, given a clipboard, and told to wait over there.

Three-quarters of the chairs in the main lobby had been removed, leaving half a dozen well spaced. I answered all of the exposure questions and returned my paper. Sat down to read.

A runner from the dentist’s office came down to get me. She escorted me into the elevator and pressed the buttons with her gloved hand. So far, I touched nothing but the pump on the hand sanitizer bottle (I helped myself before they offered. Bad habit?) and the clipboard/pen. The two of us were alone in a standard-size elevator and stood to either side.

Since they were holding people down on the first floor, I was the lone customer in the office waiting area. Several chairs had been turned to the wall &/or roped off.

The attention to detail continued into the exam room. I was in a room by itself rather than the wider open areas that I usually see. Dentist & technician wore gowns, gloves, mask, and faceshields. The women in the office wore their hair covered with a cap/snood arrangement that came with buttons to hold elastic loops, if needed. It may have been a fashion or religious statement, but a) I don’t remember see them before and the buttons made me think it was medically-specific. Keeps you from touching your hair and face? Easier to have hair up when wearing a mask? Looked tidy.

Once done, I was escorted back down to the lobby and sent on my way.

My sense is that my exposure was low for the day. In total, I spoke to seven non-bubble people: two at check-in, the dental office runner, the two dental folk, the office receptionist at check out, and one friend (waves hi!). The encounters were either brief, well-separated, with requisite PPE, or a combination of the above. Any germ would have had a hard time getting through the masks and plastic and distance.

Maybe this is common where you live. Maybe this is common around me & I don’t get out much. It was my first time through this kind of gauntlet.

News Article on The Subject
From hair salons to gyms, experts rank 36 activities by coronavirus risk level By Taylor DesOrmeau, AL.com, June 3, 2020

The experts ranked a dentist’s office 4 of 10, although that was an average, “Two experts called it low risk, one said it’s a medium risk and the other said it’s high risk.” The one who felt it was high risk, said to avoid appointments, “unless there’s a specific issue that needs to be addressed.” Bingo.

In evaluating outings, “The doctors pointed to five factors, when considering how risky a given activity might be: Whether it’s inside or outside; proximity to others; exposure time; likelihood of compliance; and personal risk level.”

1) inside or outside
2) proximity to others
3) exposure time
4) likelihood of compliance
5) personal risk level

Given that scale, my days was high on the first three criteria: indoors, close, and long. Low-risk on the last two: super-high compliance and healthy subjects.

Elsewhere in the article, “Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while inside ENCLOSED, public spaces.” Emphasis mine. So unmasked folks walking past me on the sidewalk, meh. Their karma, low risk to me.

Stay safe. Stay sane.
Katherine Walcott

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