BANDON — Now that recent restrictions have been scaled down, health care offices are back to seeing patients.

Some offices in the South Coast area used the “break” time to make impressive changes in how patients and employees are protected. One of those is the dental office of Sharen C. Strong DMD in Bandon.

That office has installed a new air handling system in each of the treatment rooms to provide fresh filtered air and eliminate most airborne contaminants, including viruses.

Dr. Strong says she is happy about the project.

“We weren’t required to make changes in our air system, but we knew it would help protect everyone who is in the office," Dr. Strong said. "You can feel the difference right away when you walk in, and patients really appreciate it.”

Dr. Strong wanted to model her treatment rooms after the surgery rooms in hospitals, so she consulted with administrative professionals at Bay Area Hospital about their systems. Then she met with a local heating and air conditioning contractor. A plan was made. She would install a custom-designed exhaust system under the building.

The system is called a high volume directed air flow system. Here’s how it works:

• Fresh outside air is drawn into the heating/cooling system through a filter near the roof.

• Powerful fans beneath each operatory produce negative pressure.

• Air is drawn into the operatory from the HVAC system by the negative pressure of the exhaust fans.

• The main filter in the system is a HEPA-type filter. Particles as small as one micron are filtered out. The average size of airborne viruses like coronavirus is 1.2 microns; bacteria are about 20-50 microns.

• The exhaust fans produce complete air exchange every 2-5 minutes.

• Exterior doors that close weathertight are installed at each operatory. This prevents air in the hall from coming into the operatory.

• Air flows across the patient chair and out through a filtered vent in the floor, back to the outside.

• With this new system, the operatories are similar to a hospital surgery suite.

• Patients are increasingly protected from aerosols, airborne particles, pollen, bacteria and viruses.

This is not a “recycled air” type of system. Instead, filtered fresh air from outside comes into the building. There are actually three filters that air passes through on its way through the operatories. This way, air in the operatories is kept as free as possible from airborne particles, Dr. Strong explained.

A patient in the operatory never breathes inside air which has been simply recycled through a portable “air purifier.” It is a true high-volume directed air flow system.

“We are really proud of the way our new system works," Dr. Strong said. "It’s one more way we can help everyone stay healthy.”

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