To: The Highly-Valued Current and Prospective Patients of Uptown Orthodontics
From: The Doctors at Uptown Orthodontics (Dr. B. Yaremko & Dr. D. Anholt)
Re: Re-Opening of Dental Offices as Part of "Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan"
Weathering the Storm
Due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, normal operation of our orthodontic practice was suspended between the dates of March 17 and May 2. We voluntarily closed our doors in an abundance of caution on the evening of March 16; a mandatory provincial restriction that reduced care to management of only life-threatening emergencies later came into effect on March 23. This 7-week period was a very challenging time for our practice as we worked hard to execute numerous shifts in procedure to ensure that we were staying connected with our patients and their families, addressing their needs, managing their requests, and making reasonable attempts to advance orthodontic care when possible. Despite not having a single patient within our facility over the last month and a half, as doctors we are somewhat weary; as leaders and managers in our small business we are certainly enlightened in many respects but also mentally exhausted. Nonetheless, we are exceptionally proud of our team’s commitment and understanding during a time that almost nobody could have imagined. In response to the needs of our patients, as an office, we’ve implemented a variety of novel and progressive initiatives that previously were merely pilot-projects that tended to get pushed aside in favour of the typically comfortable status quo. These initiatives include our virtual patient consultation and assessment systems that have not only been received favourably and with tremendous appreciation from our patients, they have been surprisingly effective in their outcomes as well. Indeed, crisis breeds innovation and we feel that, with new ideas and adjusted perspectives, we’ll undoubtedly be a better orthodontic experience for the average patient in the “new normal” world that lies ahead.
Summary of Recent Developments
On April 23rd, as part of the first phase of the “Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan”, Premier Scott Moe declared that previously restricted medical services were permitted to re-open on May 4th. Dental (and dental specialty) services could thus resume with the understanding that specific recommendations made early in the provincial state of emergency declaration must stay in place. Inclusion of orthodontics in this primary phase demonstrates the importance of what we do for people’s health and wellbeing; additionally, it demonstrates the trust that provincial officials have in our education, experience, and rigor when it comes to infection controls measures such as the sterilization and disinfection procedures that we do essentially subconsciously throughout each work day. Also mentioned in the provincial plan was the requirement to “continue to take measures as outlined by the Chief Medical Health Officer to promote physical distancing where possible, and where not, use appropriate personal protective equipment”. Furthermore, our provincial regulatory body, the College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan, released a more specific document relevant to the intricacies of our industry on April 27th. This 10-page document released by the CDSS supported the provincial plan in both its objectives and its approach. It expanded on our role as healthcare providers to perform diligent screening of our patients. Additionally, and importantly, the specific procedural guidelines and mandatory processes outlined in the CDSS protocol update provided comfort for both us and our dental colleagues regarding the proper ways to operate in a safe manner in the interim period while the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully steadily subsides in our region.
Decision to Eliminate of All Aerosol-Generating Procedures in our Office
Orthodontics as a rule is very minimal in the extent to which its usual necessary procedures create aerosols that have the potential to carry an infectious disease outside of the oral cavity and into the surrounding environment. Perhaps less than 5% of orthodontic appointments typically require instruments and/or procedures that are known to generate aerosols. We are very lucky to be able to completely remove from our schedule all procedures where aerosol generation has been known to occur with negligible effects on comfort, efficiency, or efficacy. We are prepared to proceed with the provision of orthodontic care, without sacrificing the great results or the exceptional experience we are known for at Uptown, for as long as necessary as a “non-aerosol office” - be it weeks, months, or even years that COVID remains a serious threat to the wellness of those around us.
As doctors we have directed our team to postpone any appointments where the creation of aerosols would be an inevitability or a necessity to achieve a specific predetermined goal. Quite commonly, orthodontic appointments consist of multiple small steps/procedures (e.g. adjusting wires, elastics, etc.) where no aerosols would be generated and perhaps 1 or 2 brief procedures (e.g. adjusting teeth shapes, removing bulky appliances, etc.) where aerosols could be generated depending on how they are rendered; in these situations, the appointments will remain as scheduled and the aerosol-generating aspect will simply be delayed to a later visit in the course of treatment and/or provided in an alternative non-aerosol-generating manner. Additionally, in a time where leaving one’s house for any reason is inherently a risk no matter the destination, we have also decided to delay most elective appointments and any appointments that can be postponed without ill effect. Lastly, for very simple appointments where physical manipulation of an appliance is unnecessary and a change (or absence of a change) is simply being evaluated visually, we are planning to continue with virtual/remote appointments through digital interfaces supported with basic photography and other 3D analytical tools.
Your safety and the safety of our team is always our primary concern. That said, we know that convenience and comfort are also critically important factors for our patients and their families. For these reasons, we are excited to continue our evolution towards embracing the beautiful simplicity of modern digital orthodontic systems where the number of minutes spent laying back in the dental chair with one’s mouth open is as low as reasonably possible. Please, stay connected with us as we continue to take your feedback as patients and apply it in ways to better the orthodontic experience for all of those that walk into Uptown Orthodontics.
Strategy to Resume Ongoing Treatment
Our office will be opening our doors to patients on May 4th. We are relieved to finally have some certainty when it comes to general timelines for re-appointment; indeed, we have been asked about this a lot and we completely understand your desire to refresh your appliances. Due to our time of closure, a very large number of patients had appointments that needed to be cancelled, postponed, or executed differently to some extent. We always treat each of our patients uniquely and certainly this pandemic closure situation re-affirmed that in the way that each and every case was different in the way it could be best managed. We have identified a number of patients who require somewhat urgent care, there are many that should be seen within a month or so, and then some remain where an extended interval will not be a detriment to their care. As healthcare providers with professional obligations, we feel it is important that we see the majority of our patients in a timely manner. That said, it is also critical that we do not rush to merely straighten teeth when a more serious health issue looms. Accordingly, like the provincial plan, we are implementing a phased approach in our return to work. Please trust us to make appropriate decisions when it comes to having our team reschedule affected appointments. Our progressive opening strategy will allow for optimal training, accurate scheduling, acquisition of necessary materials that are proving very hard to obtain, and most importantly the well-being of our team who have had to adapt to significant changes in their lives which now have to be adapted again in new ways. In the week of May 4-8, we will be seeing patients in a limited capacity due to limited resources. By May 18th, we anticipate operating at near normal levels but with a more diffuse schedule and in a more diffuse (and more controlled) environment. Our team has agreed to rally throughout Spring and have agreed to work extra hard in June where we anticipate safely seeing the majority of our affected patients in treatment. More specifically, we are ramping up capacity in late-May and early-June and doing so in a safe way by extending our days, onboarding casual clinical team members, and expanding treatment into other areas within our space. Assuming no major setbacks in Saskatchewan’s effort to manage spread of this virus, we expect that any less-than-ideal effects resulting from our time away from our patients will be rectified by early-July. Regrettably, time in treatment for the average patient may be extended slightly but most importantly, we see no reason why originally promised orthodontic outcomes can’t still be delivered.
Important Necessary Changes
There will be a variety of new precautions and different experiences in place however when our patients return for their next appointment. Most of these procedures are mandated, some of them are things that our office has elected to do above-and-beyond requirements, but all of them have to do with safety. There will be extra steps required prior to attending your appointment. There will be enhanced cleaning protocols in common areas. There will be team members wearing things and doing things that you may not be used to. There will be a few simple things we’ll ask you to do while in our office. There will be some changes in the way that you communicate with our administrative team. Even the look of our office and the flow of movement within our office - things that we normally obsess about - will change a bit. We have had to adapt quickly to make these changes and we ask that you try to adapt quickly in the way you are accepting of these changes.
We don’t want to overwhelm or scare our patients with a lot of new things all at once but at the same time, we don’t want the changes to be a surprise either. It is important that patients understand the extent of some of these new protocols and, most of all, are aware of their role in efficiently complying with the necessary steps in an effort to maximize their time with the treatment team during their appointment time.
A point form summary of the major interim changes to be expected during a standard orthodontic visit can be found on our website here.
Should you have any questions or concerns about these changes, please contact our team. We’d be happy to provide you with rationale, comfort, and clarity as requested.
In our last formal communication on March 24, we announced that all in-office appointments in the month of April would be cancelled. This was a strategic communications plan to make decisions and inform our patients on a monthly basis more than it was an educated guess about how long the pandemic restrictions would last. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a very convenient decision that became evident when we finalized our plan to re-open on May 4th - the day the restrictions on common dental practice was to be lifted within the province and also the first planned work day in the month of May for our Saskatoon team.
For the sake of completeness, appointments were cancelled for the following dates:
- March: 17th through 31st
- April: 1st through 30th (including our April 3rd and 4th appointments in Yorkton)
- May: 1st and 2nd (Yorkton only)
Some affected appointments have been rescheduled already and rescheduling of all other appointments is ongoing. Please be reminded that our doctors have assessed nearly all patient charts and our team members have personally contacted most patients in an effort to reschedule patients in a methodical and fair manner.
If you have an appointment currently scheduled for May 4th and onward, and have not specifically been informed of any necessary changes, please plan to attend this appointment. (Note that many May 4-8 appointments do require postponement, so please watch your communications carefully if you have previously scheduled appointments during this particular week.) If you have an appointment scheduled for the next few months and know that you will be unable to attend at the existing date/time due to life changes resulting from the pandemic or any other reason, we invite you to contact our team to seek an agreeable alteration.
If you have not yet been contacted to reschedule an affected appointment, we would ask for your patience over the coming weeks as our scheduling team works hard to connect with you as directed by your doctor to confirm a time where we can welcome you into our office to see our team again. If you had a series of appointments booked and perhaps only the first one or two appointments in that series were cancelled but a later appointment still exists, please plan to attend any remaining appointments as scheduled unless specifically instructed otherwise by our scheduling team in the coming weeks.
Sharing Appreciation And Sharing Honesty
It seems like we say it all the time, but, as orthodontists, we really love what we do; we missed our daily face-to-face interactions with our patients and our team members and we are extremely excited to get back to what we feel we do best.
Over the duration of our clinic closure, we connected with patients daily via phone, text, email, social media, and video teleconference. Even though hundreds and perhaps thousands of communications were made, It saddens us that we didn’t have the time or the resources to get in touch with each one of you directly. Please know that we tried our absolute best to be available to support you over the last 7 weeks. To those with whom we were able to share moments of laughter, enlightenment, disbelief, confusion, or any other emotion, please know that we appreciated your efforts to connect, your authenticity for the situation at hand, and your patience as we tried to find a path forward together in uncertain times. In general, the resiliency and optimism observed was incredible, and really, quite inspiring. Thank you for demonstrating to us that the simple things in life and the things closest to us are indeed all we need to feel fulfilled.
We reviewed above how we worked hard to ensure treatment stayed on track. We spent a similar amount of time ensuring that the contributors to our practice were feeling physically and mentally well - our patients, our team members, and our referring professional colleagues. The reality, however, is that our small business, like most other small businesses, inevitably did not fare particularly well - it did get slightly off track. We accept the reality that our immediate goals as entrepreneurs may have to change. There is nothing tangible though that we will ask differently of our patients, our team, or our referrers. Your confidence in us is appreciated and almost all we will continue to request; knowing we have your trust will help us overcome any hardships we might encounter as we determine how to maintain stability as a locally-owned, start-up business that is shared by us as your two doctors. That said, if you are willing, we would also love to hear from you, particularly at this time (be it in the form of a private comment or a public online review) and particularly if it is an affirmation of our efforts and/or the effects of our efforts. Quite simply, if our team has made you feel good in hard times, we, as doctors, would love to hear about it! And, of course, we’d appreciate you sharing your positive experiences with your friends as well.
Thank you for considering this important aspect and for appreciating the gift (and the contagiousness) of a great smile!
In teams and in business a mission statement oftentimes feels corny and perhaps somewhat forced. Admittedly, despite our efforts to create one 7 years ago that was meaningful to our team and our overall objectives at Uptown Orthodontics, there are days where ours seems like just words on paper that are trying to sound good. We must state confidently though that we now understand the truth, that when you’re in uncharted waters and feeling disorientated, an organization’s mission statement acts as a guiding light that leads back to firm ground. We will continue to seek to communicate honestly, openly, and accurately with all involved with our office with the hope of finding things in common, like the innate desire every one of us has to persevere and look forward to enjoying a better tomorrow! Thanks for your efforts - big or small - past, present, or continued - in helping the world around you get through this unexpected and unprecedented event.
As always, please feel free to contact our team with any questions or concerns you may have. Stay well, stay connected, and we look forward to seeing you again very soon! (Oh, and we hope we didn’t embarrass ourselves too much during our respective social media takeovers. It was, actually, somewhat enjoyable. We’ll practice our Insta techniques a bit more and maybe you’ll see us there again in the future.)
Dr. Devon Anholt     |     Dr. Brent Yaremko
Our Mission Statement:
Aligning our goals with yours to create the confidence you need to inspire the world around you.
Brace yourself for the possibilities.