As a practicing dentist, I am often asked by family, friends, and patients as to whether it’s safe to go back to the dentist for routine and preventive care. Most dental practices across the country have reopened for non-emergent visits with careful guidance from the American Dental Association (ADA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and their local health officials. While choosing when to return to the dentist is a personal choice, it’s important to keep in mind that routine dental exams are critical to our oral health and overall wellness.
Contact your Dental Provider
Your dentist is the best resource for up-to-date information on their practice and the guidelines they are following.
If you’re experiencing a dental emergency or an urgent dental problem, call your dentist immediately to determine the best course of action. Dental emergencies are potentially life-threatening conditions like uncontrolled bleeding, trauma to the face, or infections with facial or mouth swelling that could affect the airway and breathing. If you do not have a dental home, many dentists are accepting new patients and are willing to speak with you over the phone or via a telehealth examination. Looking for a dentist near you? Click here.
Make an Appointment
Don’t wait to schedule your next appointment for any dental concerns or for preventive care. Oral health is connected to overall health, which is why it’s important to keep up with preventive exams, especially if you are pregnant or have a chronic medical condition that puts you at higher risk for dental problems.
Call your dentist and at least get the ball rolling on your next appointment. Keep in mind that most dental practices are still catching up from months of rescheduled appointments and are most likely operating on limited time slots due to social-distancing requirements and additional time required for cleaning between patients, so finding an available appointment may be a different process than you have been accustomed to in the past.
The “New Normal” at the Dentist
Your appointment is set, great! The process before and during your appointment may feel different than it did before, but rest assured it’s is to ensure your safety and the safety of the dental team. You may be asked to wait in your car, you may not get to see the familiar smile from the dental team because they are wearing masks, and your appointment times may vary in duration. You also may want to consider getting more necessary dentistry done during each visit as opposed to spreading the treatment out over multiple visits.
Before your dental appointment:
- To minimize the number of people in the office, you may be asked to leave family members or caregivers at home unless it is necessary for them to accompany you for the appointment.
- You may be asked screening questions to make sure you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms (such as fever or cough) and to confirm you have not been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.
- You may be asked to complete paperwork at home and submit electronically before your appointment.
On the Day of your Dental Appointment:
- You may be asked to wait in your car until the staff is ready, and the front office staff will likely call or text you to let you know when to come in.
- If they are using them, waiting rooms will have fewer chairs and no magazines or toys.
- Upon arrival, you may have your temperature taken and may be asked to wear a mask.
- Front office staff will be wearing face masks, shields, gowns, and head coverings.
- You may be asked additional screening questions about having COVID-19 symptoms.
- You may see additional dividers at the front desk and throughout the office.
- You may need to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before treatment.
- Treatment may be modified to reduce aerosols. For example, the hygienist may hand-polish your teeth instead of ultrasonic cleaning.
- You will be asked to notify your dentist if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms or you test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of your appointment.
While venturing out of the house may seem daunting, dental offices have always been safe places to receive care. Remember, dentists are medical professionals who manage infection control and risk on a daily basis and they are committed to keeping you and your family safe.
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