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North Texas dentist unintentionally finds safer tool amidst coronavirus pandemic

While Frisco dentist Dunia Korous initially got a piece of surgical equipment to make her patients less anxious, it now makes them safer amidst the COVID-19 virus.

FRISCO, Texas — Dentist Dunia Korous is focused on making her patients comfortable.

Patients will often times seeing her in a pink or brightly-colored coat because she wants to help people with white coat syndrome.

"I'm the type of dentist that would like to make my patients feel like they came to their friend's house," Korous said.

She runs Millennium Smiles in Frisco, providing a variety of dental care and procedures.

In November 2019, Korous bought a Solea laser for her practice. This tool can replace the commonly used dental drill and avoid direct contact with the tooth.

She said she bought it to help reduce her patients' anxiety about having to go to the dentist.

Things have changed since that purchase.

Credit: Solea
The Solea laser allows dentists to do certain procedures without having direct contact with the tooth.

"We have one of the greatest tools in our practice, yet we didn't even know it then," Korous said.

In March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended dental settings should only be for urgent and emergency visits due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The issue with a dentist's office is the chance for liquid droplets known as aerosols to transfer from person to person or end up on a surface. This could cause someone to pass the COVID-19 virus to someone else.

Since many of the commonly-used dentistry tools create a visible spray that contains particle droplets such as water, saliva and microorganisms, there is a risk involved with these procedures.

Dr. Phillip Huang of Dallas County Health and Human Services said it could also be potentially dangerous since some of these small particles can float around in the air for a long time.

"There are all these droplets, aerosols that are produced with these sort of dental procedures," Dr. Huang said.

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Korous was forced to close down her office for about two months, but she opened back up about four weeks ago.

"I had to think about how we're going to take of our patients when they're coming back," Korous said.

She quickly realized the tool once bought for comfort could now be a tool for safety.

The FDA-approved Solea laser reduces splatter by more than 90% while also using 67%-83% less water flow, according to Convergent Dental Inc., the company that makes this dental laser.

While normal drills can project debris from the oral cavity to a distance of 18 inches or more, the company says their computer-aided preparation laser system drastically reduces the amount of aerosols in the air.

Korous said there aren't that many North Texas dentists using this laser because of the current cost, but that could change if this pandemic continues.

"We as dentists have to be proactive," Korous said. "We have to find ways to be able to take care of our patients in a more sterile environment than just what we used to do before."

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