Yes, it would be best if you still went to the dentist. But be careful. We know that many Americans hate visiting the dentist, but Covid-19 should not be an excuse to defer routine or critical dental needs. There is a direct correlation between oral health and overall health, and it has never been more important to stay healthy than now. By now, we all know that social distancing is the best way to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus until there's a vaccine, while those pearly whites must be hidden behind masks when in public situations for the foreseeable future they should not be neglected.
Most dental practices in the United States were ordered to shut down all but the most urgent care to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in mid-March, 2020. We were closed for 119 days, says San Francisco Cosmetic and Restorative Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD. "I have been in practice for over 40 years, he said, and I have never closed down the office for more than a week," Dr. Loev says. "Like so many of my colleagues, my office has always been very focused on infection control and keeping our team and patients healthy. Despite our previous attention to detail and strict sterilization and infection control protocols, Covid-19 thrust our office and the whole nation into overdrive." Dental practices are adapting how they work in and around a patient's mouth to account for this complicated reality. Dentists are screening patients for symptoms by phone before scheduling, taking patient temperatures, and limiting the number of appointments in a day. In addition, they are implementing even more stringent sanitation protocols and wearing more protective equipment to guard against the respiratory disease.
As states across the country are beginning to relax, the stay-at-home restrictions, businesses, including dental practices, are starting to reopen and provide both preventative and emergency care. The way the service is delivered has changed based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization's suggestions, coupled with practical guidance from the American Dental Association (ADA). "Don't put off your regular cleanings and check-ups, which can compound future health issues, but be aware of the following changes that you might experience at your dental office." Says Dr. Loev
- Dental offices are calling patients one to two days before their appointment to ask whether they're experiencing any common covid-19 symptoms, such as a fever, cough or muscle aches. Patients scheduling new appointments will also be asked a list of questions, as outlined by the ADA
- If you have a fever it could be a symptom of the novel coronavirus, but it could also be the sign of oral infection or abscess. If you have a fever and toothache, your dental team will try via remote communication to ascertain the cause of the fever. Sometimes an oral antibiotic might be prescribed to treat an infection. In most cases, you will be required to take a COVID test before visiting the office in person. While dentists understand that for some people, this might be a hassle, keeping patients and team members healthy has to be the core concern.
- When you arrive at the dental office, your temperature will be taken by a team member and the questions that were asked by phone will once again be reviewed.
- Social distancing will be observed in the dental office, and in some cases, when space is limited, patients will be asked to wait in their cars or outside the office until the dentist or hygienists are ready to begin treatment.
- No magazines or other "un-cleanable" objects will be in the reception area, and patients are generally urged to bring their reading and writing materials.
- Most dentists are drastically reducing the number of patients that can be seen each day and extending appointment times to ensure plenty of time for both the visit and the comprehensive disinfection process that will follow each patient.
- Your dental team will be wearing masks as they walk around and during treatment will add face masks and isolation gowns similar to those worn in hospital settings.
- When getting your teeth cleaned, many hygienists and hygiene dentists are limiting their use of specific cleaning devices that vibrate and spin. Longer visits will often be implemented to allow for the use of hand tools. In some cases, the ultra-sonic machines may still be used, but if so, they will generally either be accompanied but increased suction tools or an assistant to limit the aerosol spread.
- Patients may also notice more additional suction devices that hook around the mouth to vacuum any potential aerosols at the source.
- Appointment times may be limited, and availability reduced to ensure social distancing.
- The humming of air purifiers will most likely be present in each room of the office
Because dental offices were already focused on infection control before the current pandemic, they were uniquely prepared to up their efforts and make sure that they keep patients safe. "All of us are aware that when we came back to practice, we were not coming back to a COVID-19-free world," says Hygiene dentist and former oral health professor Dr. Gad Heinic, DMD said. "So we're trying to compensate and — maybe — overcompensate a bit too. The dental office might be one of the safest places to be during this pandemic."
Ultimately the choice to visit your dentist is a personal one, and while it is very important for overall health, your psychological health must also be taken into account. If you are over 65 or are immunocompromised, maybe waiting isn't too bad as long as you make sure to do an extra good job of brushing and flossing. Now more than ever, dental health practitioners say people should be diligent about their personal health at home — whether it's focusing on their diet, exercise, or oral health. Even if you are trying to wait out this pandemic, if your teeth feel funny or sensitive, call your dentist and ask for advice and what they are doing to protect patients in their care. Preventative dental care is more comfortable and generally less expensive than emergency care, so stay ahead of the curve.
Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD has been caring for his patients for decades from his dental office that overlooks San Francisco's Union Square. He and his team take pride in providing the best quality and most gentle dental care available. Over the years, they have transformed 100's of "non-dentist" people into people who enjoy their visits and take pride in their smiles. A dental relationship should be a positive one; make sure that you feel comfortable and cared for by your dentist if the experience is "meh…" then ask friends, family, and colleagues about their dentist. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are in need or want of a new dentist, Dr. Loev and his team would love the opportunity to meet you and earn your trust and loyalty call them at 415-392-2072 or schedule an appointment online today.