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Dr. Christy Savage, Dr. Lindsay Limbaugh, and Dr. Keith Harvey all closed their offices by the March 19 COVID-19 mandate from the state legislature, and they remained closed to patients until Monday, May 4.

""Dr. Savage welcomes patients back to the clinic. During those six weeks, Dr. Harvey had to reschedule approximately 3,100 patients, but remained vigilant and protective of the safety and health of his patients. Since reopening, all three dentists have been seeing patients on a limited basis, and are learning a “new normal” surrounding the increased use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and additional safety measurements and protocols. For the month of May, Dr. Savage was treating about one-third of the normal number of patients each day, and maintained social distancing guidelines by staggering them throughout her clinic and using private consultation rooms in which to perform procedures. Similarly, Dr. Limbaugh reduced her schedule from serving 120 patients (or more) each day down to eighty and opted to only see patients in every other clinic chair.

Despite the many devastating effects of COVID-19, the pandemic has brought some positive changes and outcomes to oral healthcare as well. Like many dentists, Dr. Limbaugh continued to see patients virtually during the pandemic. What started out as a way to maintain patient care during the quarantine has developed into a new system of serving potential patients: those who are interested in orthodontic care can send photos of their mouth and teeth to Dr. Limbaugh for her to review and respond with possible treatment options and cost estimates. From there, the patient can schedule their complimentary in-person exam if they are still interested. This simple but effective change in daily operations has made orthodontic care easier and more patient-friendly. Dr. Savage says she is grateful for how the pandemic has allowed her to reconnect with her peers and colleagues, as they are all in this together trying to adapt in an ever-changing health and patient-care landscape. She is also hopeful for how the health crisis will change the public’s understanding of the seriousness of viruses and illnesses, and how important it is to stay home if you are sick so as not to endanger others.

""Drs. Limbaugh and Savage back in the clinic. And while many orthodontists were initially worried about the losses incurred during the quarantine, as well as not being able to recover due to the elective nature of the profession, the reality is that patients are continuing to seek orthodontic care. It’s certainly a testament to the professionalism and compassion of Dr. Harvey, Dr. Savage, and Dr. Limbaugh, that all three are continuing to schedule new patients and reschedule existing patients. Their patients trust them with their oral health and safety, even in the midst of a global pandemic. In fact, because many orthodontic procedures don’t require the use of aerosol and are therefore considered low-risk, there is great hope that orthodontic offices will fully financially recover sooner rather than later.

Even though all three orthodontists missed their regular routine and their patients, slowing down helped to remind them of the importance of family. Dr. Harvey’s quarantine days were filled with plenty of honey-do lists, cherished time with his wife, children, and grandchildren, and turkey hunting. Dr. Savage spent time at home with her husband and children, where she implemented “Christy’s Corona Cocktail Hour” to bring some fun and light-heartedness into the long days. As for Dr. Limbaugh, she says the quarantine helped her to re-focus her goals for her practice and personal life. Above all, the quarantine has helped put into perspective why each chose a career in orthodontics in the first place: to make a difference in the lives of others, not only through their smile but through a positive experience.

By Elizabeth Carlson