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.

Dr. James Tejada was destined for dentistry from a young age. Growing up with a hygienist mother and other family members in the industry, he says he has “always had a great support system.” Since graduating from the University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston, he has focused on continuing his education, taking courses on implants, Advanced Guided Tissue Regeneration, and more. Work is a family affair…Dr. Tejada and his wife, Dr. Samantha Tejada, own and operate WoodSprings Dentistry in Spring, Texas.

When did you reopen your practice?

We got the approval to reopen in Texas around mid-May. It was a Friday, but we waited until the following Monday because we wanted to make sure we were prepared and had all of the proper PPE.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Obtaining the PPE was the biggest challenge. Everything was on backorder because all of the supplies were on hold for hospitals. Making staff feel safe was also a challenge for us; they trust us, but we still had to show them all of the precautions and steps that we took to protect them and our patients.

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

PPE affected my comfort level slightly. Practicing with extra clothing makes it a little warmer in the practice. We dropped temperatures in the office, so we don’t sweat as much. The face shield took some time to get used to because it made depth perception a little unusual.

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

Not really, most patients are excited to come in. A few have been cautious and wanted to know more details about protocols in the practice, but once we explained, they felt comfortable. We sent emails and texts to patients to update them about our COVID plan. We sent out questionnaires provided by the ADA to make staff and patients feel safe.

Have you encountered any challenges with staff members?

No, we are a startup dental practice with a smaller staff. I guess it can be good and bad. With a larger staff there is a higher risk of exposure to Covid, but with a smaller staff, if someone does get it, being down a number will take a toll on us.

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?

I think it will be somewhere in the middle. I don’t think dentistry will ever go back to how it was. Dentistry has always been a cautious field. We’ve dealt with a lot of illnesses over the years, and this is just another one. With a vaccine, we may see face shields go away, but I think higher level masks will stick around.