In this new series, we’ll be asking questions and getting first-person perspectives on what it’s like so far to practice amid the pandemic. Every region, every practice, every practitioner has unique stores so we’re chronicling them here to give you an up-close and personal look at challenges, solutions and inspiring moments across the country.

Dentistry has been calling Dr. Amy Gentner since the eighth grade. She followed her passion to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, where she earned multiple scholarships and was voted best general dentist of her class. She now owns and operates her practice, Gentner Family Dentistry, in St. Johns, Michigan. Dr. Gentner also serves as an active member of the American Dental Association, the Michigan Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry, and several others. When she’s not in her practice, Dr. Gentner speaks to local classes and groups about dentistry, as well as donating dental supplies to local charities.

When did you reopen your practice?

We reopened to patients on May 29th.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

The stronger PPE and heavier masks have been causing a lot of physical stress, headaches, and exhaustion.

How have the changes in PPE affected your ability to practice?

We were very blessed to get enough PPE. We got support from the community early on, we donated KN95 masks and then got KN95 masks back from the local FEMA. There was some difficulty getting face shields from main suppliers, but we contacted private companies and were able to get them. As far as items being inauthentic, we had a batch of masks that was on the approved list but got taken off, so we had to get rid of them. But for the most part, we stuck to reputable dealers and were aware of authenticity early on.

How has the experience been with patients? Has it been difficult to encourage patients to come into the office?

We’ve had some older or unhealthy patients postpone their visits, but for the most part, our office is swamped. Before we reopened, we filmed a tour of what to expect. The video showed the new office layout and our new PPE. The video was posted on Facebook and sent through email. When patients came in, they told us how comfortable they felt in our office because of our communication. Communication is important for leaders. Patients and staff are looking to you for advice and leadership. You need to have done enough research to know and understand what you’re talking about.

Have you encountered any challenges with staff members?

One hygienist asked for the summer off to help her elderly parents because she did not want to compromise their health. Another staff member has had high anxiety about Covid, but throughout, I have been working to make her feel comfortable in the office. Prior to opening, I sent care packages to staff, hosted Zoom meetings for social connection, and we had three days of training in the office right before opening.

Will dentistry ever return to what it was like pre-COVID? Should it? Or are the new precautions justified even in a world with a vaccine?

Once we have herd immunity and a vaccine, I think a lot will return to normal. The PPE takes a toll and is hard on bodies. I can’t imagine having a full career with this much PPE. We need to work to balance viruses and safety long term.