Skip to main content

North Hills Monthly

Pawlowicz Dentistry Transforms Practice Model to Combat Virus Fears

May 28, 2020 04:34PM ● By Vanessa Orr

Dr. John Pawlowicz III and Dr. Jason Pawlowicz, Pawlowicz Dentistry. Photo by Dena Koenig Photography LLC

Even as businesses begin to slowly reopen, many people are hesitant to reschedule medical and dental appointments until the coronavirus is contained. For those worried about undergoing elective and even emergency procedures, Pawlowicz Dentistry has undergone a major renovation of its two offices to ensure that they not only meet but exceed CDC (Disease Control and Prevention) standards.

“The practice model had to change based upon what is happening with COVID-19 and the ways in which we can safely go about treating patients,” explained John Pawlowicz III, who along with brother Jason and father John Pawlowicz Jr., comprise Pawlowicz Dentistry. “Since May, we’ve been working on adapting our offices in Butler/Lyndora and in Mars to move from a traditional, more contact-based model to using technology to keep patients, our team, and our families, safer.”

Both offices will now feature negative pressure clinical areas with technology designed to remove potentially contaminated air, which is then purified and returned to rooms.

“We know that the virus hangs in the air for a half-hour, whether from coughing or sneezing or dental procedures,” explained Dr. Pawlowicz. “Negative pressure rooms cycle air out and run it through high-tech filters that are combined with ultraviolet (UV) light, which also kills viruses on surfaces. Once the air is clean, it is recirculated back into the room.”

At the end of each day, each room will also be treated with ozone therapy, which kills bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, yeast and more. 

“Ozone is a very powerful cleaning and disinfecting agent, which will ensure that our offices are far cleaner than standards set by the government,” said Dr. Pawlowicz. “We are also changing the water supply that goes into our handpieces to ozone water, which when applied to the teeth and gums, aids in the inactivation of bacterial and viral byproducts. We’ve added all of these extra steps to deal with the morphing virus.”

Fewer Points of Contact

In addition to refitting their offices to create the safest environment possible, Pawlowicz Dentistry is also using technology to lessen contact during visits.

“Instead of taking traditional impressions of patients’ mouths using goop-filled trays, we’ll be utilizing scanning devices that use cameras to take pictures of the upper and lower teeth; these virtual impressions can then be made into models, which is especially helpful for orthodontic patients and those who need extensive dentistry,” said Dr. Pawlowicz.

The office also utilizes cone-beam computerized tomography, or CBCT, to get a virtual 3-D image of the throat and nose airways, which helps screen for potential sleep apnea, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMS/TMD). A bite analysis machine, part of a CT scanner, can also be used to evaluate TMS/TMD patients’ bites, as well as to diagnose issues with sleep apnea.

“What we’ve found is that patients much prefer the camera to the old-fashioned trays; it’s very accurate and very fast to make a mold using a 3D printer,” said Dr. Pawlowicz. “There are few to no drawbacks, other than the time needed to explain these new technologies to patients.”

As with any medical procedure, patients will be pre-screened, not just for their medical history but to determine if they may be carrying the virus. Patients will fill out a form that includes questions about whether they’ve had a cough or temperature, or traveled out of the country. 

“We will be taking patients’ temperatures as standard protocol, and also using a pulse oximeter to measure their respiration rates,” said Dr. Pawlowicz, adding that people with the virus have trouble getting enough oxygen into their lungs, which is a sign that they need to be referred to a physician.

“Until we can figure out where the virus came from, what caused it, and how to avoid getting it, these protocols will be in place for the near-term for the safety of our patients and staff,” he added. “We are on high alert.”

Calming COVID Fears

Because this is such a mysterious virus, Pawlowicz Dentistry is going above and beyond to make patients feel more comfortable about having dental procedures. 

“Talking to our patients, we’ve seen that there are really two buckets of people,” explained Dr. Pawlowicz. “The first group of patients want to get in now; their teeth are feeling slimy and coated, and they’re used to keeping to an ideal cleaning regimen. They take really good care of their dental hygiene and are worried about keeping their teeth healthy.

“The other bucket is patients who are feeling trepidation and a fear of the unknown; right now, they only want to come in when something is seriously wrong,” he continued. “This is why we’re moving to air filtration and ozone water; we want to give them the next level of assurance by mitigating the risk of the virus. Their peace of mind is important to us, and we want them to feel better about coming in.”

During the stay-at-home order, Pawlowicz Dentistry was able to provide emergency care, performing tooth extractions and making repairs to broken or infected teeth. “We weren’t able to do anything elective, nor did we want to until we changed our system over,” said Dr. Pawlowicz. “But we were able to help several emergency patients who were thankful that we could see them.

“They were actually happy to see the dentist, which doesn’t happen often,” he laughed.

Dr. Pawlowicz credits the practice’s patients for being extremely understanding about appointments having to be cancelled and rescheduled and says that he expects to see high demand in their offices once everything reopens. 

“There are going to be some offices that don’t want to go back to work, and their patients will be left searching for new dentists,” he said. “We are here to help 100 percent. If need be, we will bring on an associate dentist to meet the demand.”

He also expects to see a number of new patients as a result of the technology and safety measures that the practice has put into place. 

“It took a lot of time, energy and expense to outfit both offices, so there will be many practices that can’t do this and will not be operating in an optimal environment. You can’t just go to Lowe’s and buy this stuff,” he said. “But because we’ve always been at the forefront of technology and advancement, this was a no-brainer for us.”

He added that as president of the Western Pennsylvania Dental Association, one of his goals is to educate member dentists that proper air filtration is necessary.

“You can spray everything down with a bactericide or virucide that kills everything on surfaces, but it’s the stuff floating in the air that you have to worry about now,” he said. “When you mitigate that, it goes a long way toward keeping the virus at bay.”

Pawlowicz Dentistry is located at 516 Hansen Avenue in Lyndora, PA (724-287-4000) and at 231 Crowe Avenue in Mars, PA (724-287-4400). For more information, visit www.wowsmilenow.com.