Is It Safe To Go To The Dentist During COVID?
You may be wondering if it’s okay to visit your dentist during the COVID 19 pandemic. Like so many things right now, the answer to this question is, “It depends”.The answer will be different for each person and is dependent on many factors. You will need to consider your level of need for dental care as well as your risk for serious complications from the Coronavirus and pair those up withthe level of precaution your dental office is taking.
Are you having a true dental emergency?
Are you at a high-risk for serious, potentially fatal,complications from the Coronavirus?
Is your dentist followingthe CDC protocolto protect you and themselves?
We’ve outlined for you some of the questions you need to answer before deciding what’s right for you, and the changes you should notice if you do decide to go.
Are you having a Dental Emergency?
There is often some debate over what is considered a “dental emergency”. What a patient considers an emergency and what our profession considers an emergency might surprise you. The ADA has issued guidance regarding what issues you should consider seeking care for during the Coronavirus pandemic. If you aren’t sure whether you need to be seen, be sure to call your dentist’s office and speak to someone who can answer your questions.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if you are experiencing a dental emergency:
- Have you had trauma to your teeth?
- Do youhavesutures that need to be removed?
- Do you have bleeding, pain, or swelling?
- Is dental care delaying a critical medical procedure?
- Do you have dislodgedtemporary restorations?
- Do you have broken or loose teeth or restorations?
- Do you have areas with increased sensitivity to cold or sweets?
- Do you have new lumps, bumps or patches that have been present over 2 weeks?
- Do you have problems preventing you from eating?
- Do you have a broken orthodontic wire or appliance cutting your tissue?
Some of these things may not seem like an emergency, but not everything is always as it appears in dentistry. These questions will help identify things that we know can indicate or lead to more serious underlying problems if not addressed in the early stages.
Are you at a high-risk forserious complications from the Coronavirus?
- Do you have a compromised immune system?
- Are you age 70 or older?
- Do you have heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, or diabetes?
- Do you care for or share a home with someone who does?
You will need to weigh these risks against your need for dental care. This balance will be highly individualized. If you cannot determine the urgency with which you need attention, call your dental office and speak to them about your situation and they will be able to provide you with clear guidance.
What Changes Should You See in Your Dental Office During COVID 19?
5Points of Noticeable Change
- Screening – Every patient should be screened prior to each visit. This 2-step process should include a set of short-answer questions and the measurement of your body temperature. This screening process is designed to protect both the patient and the dental office staff by assessing the likelihood that you may be unknowingly carrying the Coronavirus (putting the office staff and other patients at risk) as well as determining the potential risk that you may have serious complications if you contract the Coronavirus.
An example of a screening you will receive when you visit Dillard Dental Services.
- Virtual waiting room– In offices where it does not pose an additional risk, you may be asked to wait in your car instead of the traditional waiting area. Someone on the staff will call or direct you to enter the office when it is time for you to be seated in your treatment room. This eliminates the possibility of cross-contamination through waiting room furniture and sharing a space with others when 6 feet of separation may not be possible. This also reduces the interaction you will have with passers-by in the office walkways.
- Masks required- You should be required to wear a mask before entering the office, while walking to your treatment room, and again prior to leaving your treatment room until you have exited the building. You should also notice that all others are required to do the same, including postal and delivery personnel.
- PPE for Front Office Personnel - You should notice a significant change in the addition of protection for the front office and administrative staff. Your dental office staff that traditionally sit at the front desk, answer the phones, and collect paperwork and payment should be either wearing a mask, or sitting behind a barrier that protects both of you from sharing common air. It might be acceptable for them to not wear a mask if a distance of 6 feet is maintained throughout their interactions with others, but this is rarely the case in medical offices.
- Reduced interaction- You should notice that efforts are being made to reduce the number of people you interact with during your visit as well as the number of people allowed to enter the office. This may be accomplished by not allowing anyone to accompany you during your visit and conducting business in your treatment room that would normally happen at the front desk upon leaving. In most cases, your next appointment can be made, questions about your services, and even payment to your account can be taken care of in your treatment room. If you are being seen for a procedure that does not require your dentist, you may not see him/her during this visit. Be sure to ask to see your dentist if you have a concern you want to speak to them about.
One advantage for dental offices during this pandemic is that the new requirements for protectionare not a big stretch for us. Dental office clinical personnel are accustomed to following Universal Precautions and wearing a mask for several hours a day already. In fact, wearing a mask is such a normal part of our day that occasionally we have difficulty remembering to remove it! More than once I have caught a glimpse of myself in the rear-view mirror on my drive home and realized I am still wearing a mask! It’s important that we remove our masks before leaving the office due to the contamination that is present on the outside of it, but you can be certain that we are rarely forgetting to wear one in the first place. If you’ve noticed that your dental office personnel hasn’t worn a mask during your previous visits, it may be time to question whether universal precautions were the standard of care being followed to protect you before COVID came along.
Leslie P. Dillard DDS