Dental Care During COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Dental Care During COVID-19: What You Need to Know

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Many dental offices in the U.S. closed or cut back to only emergency care as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. They’ve used that time to put safety measures in place to resume regular visits. But as offices are re-opening, you may still wonder if it’s safe to get in for a visit.

What do you do if you have a loose filling, broken crown, or toothache? Just like the need to go to a doctor if you are sick, a trip to the dentist sometimes can’t be put off. With the fear of spreading COVID-19 on everyone’s minds, dentists have limited their visits to patients with emergency needs like these.

After equipping their offices and staff with new precautions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA), many dentists are resuming regular dental visits for preventive care.

Putting Safety First

The main way COVID-19 is spread is through respiratory droplets that fly through the air when someone coughs or sneezes, say the health experts at the CDC. Even if you don’t cough or sneeze, the mucus and saliva in your mouth and throat can contain the virus. Those are the fluids your dentist and their tools come in contact with every time they treat someone.

The ADA and CDC worked together to come up with safety measures that dental offices should take before reopening. If you want to make sure your dentist is prepared, ask what safety precautions the office staff is taking before you schedule a visit.

Some things you may notice:

  • It may take longer to get an appointment on the books. They may be taking fewer patients now to spread appointments out, providing time to sanitize equipment and exam rooms between each patient.
  • You’ll see the front desk staff wearing face masks. The dentist and assistants will be wearing more protection than normal, such as surgical masks, face shields and body coverings.
  • Offices with an open reception desk may now have “window” shields in place.
  • Waiting areas will have fewer chairs, spaced six feet or more apart. Common things people touch, like magazines and toys, will be removed. And you may be asked to wait outside until they are ready for you.
  • Offices with open exam areas and multiple dental chairs may be partitioned.

You may also find that you are asked to take extra precautions before and during your visit:

  • You may fill out a health assessment form that helps them decide if you can be seen safely. It may have questions about your home and work environment, and recent travels that could have put you at greater risk.
  • You may be asked to wear protective eyewear, as well.
  • You’ll likely be asked about your current health and have your temperature taken when you arrive.
  • And you may have to wear your mask until you reach the exam chair.
Don’t Wait

Just like other health care, dental treatment and preventive care keeps people healthy and can ward off serious health problems, says ADA President Chad P. Gehani. leaving site icon   Because dental practices have spent time and resources to make sure they can see patients while minimizing risks to patients and staff, he says, normal care like cleanings and checkups can resume.

Regular preventive dental care is part of staying healthy. Making an appointment now for your cleaning and exam could help you avoid major care in the future.

Sources: How to Protect Yourself and Others, leaving site icon  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020; Coronavirus and Dental Care, leaving site icon, 2020; Is now the time to go for an annual physical exam or health screening?  leaving site icon, PBS, 2020; CDC guidance for dental settings echoes ADA guidance, leaving site icon  American Dental Association, 2020