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Dental patients paying extra for PPE as supplies run thin

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Elk Grove, California — A dental appointment looks a lot different these days with dentists covered from head to toe to protect themselves and their patients from COVID-19. But with supplies thin, all that gear comes at a high cost -- and you could end up paying an extra fee on your next trip to the dentist's office.

"We are really struggling to get PPE in as we speak," Dr. Wallace Bellamy, an Elk Grove dentist, told CBS Sacramento.

And the costs of PPE add up. Dr. Bellamy admits they trickle down to patients, with many offices now charging a PPE fee.

"Definitely, it has impacted all of our practices," Dr. Bellamy said. "It has cut into our bottom line a great extent."

Jim Wiggett, CEO of The Dentist Supply Company in Sacramento, said, "The United States, I believe, was caught flat-footed by the pandemic."

CBS Sacramento spoke with Wiggett via Zoom.

"We get up every day worried about getting them the right products. It has been a real battle," Wiggett said when asked if offices look to The Dentist Supply Company for supplies.

Wiggett said he's been working with the California Dental Association and Governor Gavin Newsom's office to obtain millions of masks.

While each of his patients now pays a $10 PPE fee, Dr. Bellamy said it's actually costing him $24 per patient.

"We are still taking a significant hit, but hopefully not for long," Bellamy said. "We hope the supply chain opens up for all of us."

The Dentist's Supply Company said officials are getting ready to distribute  7 million masks to dentists across California within the next few weeks.

That includes 2 million N-95 masks – what the CDC considers the gold standard – which have been very hard to come by since the beginning of the pandemic.

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