North metro dentist’s office uses ventilation technology to minimize spread of COVID-19

A dental clinic in White Bear Lake tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it is now the first in Minnesota to install negative pressure technology in its exam rooms to help minimize the risk of COVID-19.

"We will be 100% negative pressure in our clinic," said Anna Shelander, administrator of Dr. Crandall and Associates. "We have a lot of at-risk patients, so we wanted to make the safest environment for our patients and our staff."

Negative pressure is a ventilation system used in hospital isolation rooms to prevent cross-contamination for patients with airborne contagious diseases.

"It essentially takes all the air in a room and removes it so that it doesn’t re-enter into clean spaces," Shelander said. "It absolutely is considered the gold standard in the containment of any type of airborne contaminant."

Shelander said Dr. Crandall and Associates started looking into the idea of installing negative pressure rooms in March when the state first shut down due to the pandemic.

"The dental industry, we have actually been identified as one of the highest, if not the highest at-risk industry for COVID transmission," Shelander said.

She said it is very rare for a dental office to use this type of technology, so the clinic worked with other local companies to create a plan for installing the negative pressure rooms.

"This is new and this hasn’t been done before, so there was no roadmap," Shelander said.

Engineering firm Gausman & Moore drew up the designs, Air Mechanical did the heating, ventilation and air conditioning installation and Weaver Electrical Construction Company coordinated the electrical components. The negative pressure sensor came from Setra, the extraction fans came from Green Heck and the source extractor arms came from Movex. Hagstrom Builder out of Lake Elmo was the general contractor on the project.

"Feasibility-wise, this clinic was perfectly set up for this type of technology," Shelander said.

The clinic’s floor plan consists of closed-off dental operatories instead of the modern open-floor model, so it is well-situated to incorporate negative pressure.

"This investment is over $30,000," Shelander said. "But COVID is here, and COVID is not going to go away."

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Shelander said other dental offices around the country are now consulting with Dr. Crandall and Associates to see if they can do something similar at their own facilities.

"I think it’s great they’re putting forth the effort in being innovative so people can continue to work," said Peter Hagstrom, president and owner of Hagstrom Builder.

His father, Bob Hagstrom, built the clinic back in 1974. He is still a dental patient there and, at 90 years old, said he is grateful they are taking extra steps to protect vulnerable populations.

"When you can see a safe way of coming into a dental office and having a procedure done, having teeth cleaned, we felt good about it," Bob Hagstrom said.

Shelander took over the clinic after her father, Dr. David Crandall, passed away in September. She said this project is a way to carry on his legacy, by prioritizing the health and safety of others.

"We realized this was a way we could actually do something that honored him," Shelander said, "taking care of all of his friends, all of the patients he adored and cared for all of those years that are now our at-risk patients. We felt as though it was our duty as a clinic."

Shelander said the clinic had already taken other steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including incorporating bipolar ionization into their HVAC system, using ozone machines to clean surfaces, carpets and fabrics and building a "COVID corner" waiting area outdoors.

The clinic reopened with negative pressure technology Thursday.

Go to Dr. Crandall and Associates’ website for more information.