WINCHESTER (CBS) -- As the Massachusetts economy gradually reopens, dentists are slowly getting back up to speed. If you have an appointment scheduled, expect some changes, including a new fee.
Dr. Maria Di Benedetto of Smiles of Winchester showed us the layers of personal protective equipment she and her staff will wear while treating patients. There is a full-body gown complete with a hood, then another button-up gown that goes over that and is changed for every patient. The caregivers also wear n95 masks, a face shield, a head covering, and shoe covers.
The equipment is expensive. According to Di Benedetto, before the pandemic an n95 mask was $1. Today they are $5, when you can get them.
Dentists have already taken a big financial hit by shutting down everything but emergency services since mid-March. To help offset some of the additional costs of PPE, Smiles of Winchester and many other practices are charging a PPE fee of anywhere from $20 to $40 per patient.
"I think someone should have to help us to protect them [patients] and ourselves," Dr. Di Benedetto said pointing out that all of her patients have accepted the fee without complaint. "We do the PPE for us but we also do it for our patients so they feel comfortable to come here."
The question still out there is whether insurance companies will cover the fees. WBZ-TV contacted two major carriers and both told us they are considering reimbursing the cost of the equipment, but they haven't worked out the details yet. A sticking point seems to be putting a dollar figure on the reimbursement because the prices have been fluctuating with the increased demand. A spokesperson from Delta Dental, told us they expect to announce a plan sometime within the next week.
A couple of other changes dental patients can expect? The waiting room may be your car. Many offices plan to text patients to let them know when their provider is ready. Expect to have your temperature taken and answer a series of questions about any potential COVID-19 exposures you may have had. Dr. Di Benedetto also plans to follow up with each patient to make sure they haven't developed any symptoms after leaving the office.
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