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Hellertown Dental Group’s Innovative COVID Response Puts Safety First

Ann Hunsicker-Morrissey, DMD, who owns Hellertown Dental Group, and her staff have spent much of this year adapting her practice to accommodate a post-COVID world.

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Above, Hellertown Dental Group staff wear infection control suits. The specially-designed suits are just one of a number of changes the practice has made to help keep staff and patients safe amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Pictured, from left to right, are dental hygienist Miramar Hanna, Dr. Ann Hunsicker-Morrissey, office assistant Jessica Morrissey and Dr. Kali Brong.

Ann Hunsicker-Morrissey, DMD, who owns Hellertown Dental Group, has spent much of this year adapting her practice to accommodate a post-COVID world.

Hunsicker-Morrissey draws a parallel between changes in her industry brought about by COVID-19 to changes in the airline industry following the September 11 attacks in 2001.

“It’s another game changer,” she said. “You can’t fight it. You have to embrace it.”

When Pennsylvania first began shutting down to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, Hunsicker-Morrissey was quick to start evolving the practice in order to continue serving patients in ways which kept everyone safe.

“In the beginning the governor said that a dental office cannot open unless they have negative air pressure machines,” she said. “Well, no dentist at the time had negative air pressure machines.”

A patient at Hellertown Dental Group pays for her visit using their no-contact payment system. Reducting points of contact is part of the practice’s innovative COVID-19 safety plan.

Hunsicker-Morrissey shut down the practice the following day and began her search for the machines, which purify and sanitize the air in a confined space.

After making a few phone calls, she tracked down two machines to rent from the same company St. Luke’s University Health Network rents equipment from.

Hellertown Dental Group reopened the following day, and it has remained open ever since.

Because renting the machines can be expensive, Hunsicker-Morrissey had to look into purchasing units for the office’s eight treatment rooms. She ended up ordering eight Surgically Clean Air JADE Air Purification Systems, one of which is now in each room.

Surgically Clean Air’s cites the JADE unit’s “sophisticated filtration systems, high volume air flow capacity and lower sound levels” in referring to it as one of the most advanced medical grade air systems on the market.

Hunsicker-Morrissey finds that patients are put at ease merely by seeing the air purification systems in the treatment rooms.

Hellertown Dental Group currently uses Surgically Clean Air JADE Air Purification systems in each of its eight treatment rooms. The units provide air sanitization benefits.

Even throughout Pennsylvania’s red phase Hellertown Dental Group attended to patients in need of emergency treatment thanks to the unparalleled innovation they’ve embraced. 

The office’s staff all wore specially designed infection control suits from RT Technologies, a company based in Dunwoody, Ga. 

”These suits meet the strictest government standards and have been scientifically proven to shield against infection, including infection from SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19,” the practice announced in a June press release.

Hellertown Dental Group was the only dental practice with the infection control suits, according to the release and a video that highlights the practice’s new safety protocols.

“Nobody got sick, so they protected us,” Hunsicker-Morrissey said.

She also said that because her practice was taking so many precautions, other practices began sending them their emergency patients.

Hunsicker-Morrissey is more than pleased with her efforts to evolve the practice to stay operational while keeping patients and staff safe.

“I’m so glad we did it,” she said. “Every week we implemented something new, and we kept changing with the CDC guidelines. Whatever they said we had to do, we would do.”

Currently, the staff keep their hair and feet covered, but they have moved on from wearing the bulky infection control suits to a more comfortable, disposable outer covering.

Operations within the practice also continue to evolve. The waiting room and front desk area are not currently being used. Patients call or text when they arrive and wait in their car until called. They’re then met at the back door and escorted to their treatment room.

Hunsicker-Morrissey said they take the temperatures of all patients and staff upon entry to make sure everyone is healthy.

The practice has also begun using a molecular iodine solution. Patients rinse their mouths with the solution at the beginning of each appointment.

“The University of Connecticut did research and found that this is the only solution that really kills COVID,” Hunsicker-Morrissey said.

All of the water being used in patient procedures is now being generated on-site using a newly installed ozone water treatment system. This technology helps to ensure that the water being used to treat patients is as sterile as it can be.

“I’m also making a hypochlorous solution that we fog with,” Hunsicker-Morrissey said, referring to a new method the practice has been using to disinfect the air and surfaces within the office.

Above, a Hellertown Dental Group staff member takes the temperature of a patient about to enter the building. The practice takes the temperature of all staff and patients upon their arrival as part of their extensive COVID-19 safety procedures.

She has also ordered new high-powered, hands-free suction machines, which will allow hygienists to wait on patients while still maintaining safety best practices.

“The hygienists work by themselves, so it is difficult to be cleaning, holding a mirror and a high-speed suction at the same time,” she said.

Hunsicker-Morrissey compares operating amid the COVID pandemic to a time earlier in her career, when she was working through the dark early days of the AIDS pandemic.

“At that time there were a lot of precautions that came out of that,” she said. “We treated everybody like they had AIDS, and now we’re doing the same thing. We treat everyone like they had COVID.”

The practice has enjoyed steady business since the Commonwealth has increasingly rolled back restrictions and more businesses are opening up.

“We’re scheduled through September now,” Hunsicker-Morrissey said.

For more information about changes to the practice’s operations, check out their COVID-19 prevention and control protocols video on their website.

Hellertown Dental Group is located at 1213 Main St., Hellertown, Pa. For updates and news, follow the practice on Facebook and Instagram.


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Jonny Hart

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