Should you go to the dentist during the COVID-19 pandemic? Yes, you absolutely should. Painful dental problems don’t heal on their own. Without treatment, these conditions lead to tooth loss, jaw erosion, and worse as infections travel from your mouth to cause illness throughout your body.
Whether the pandemic is around for another three months, a year, or longer, no one should put off essential dental care indefinitely. Many wonder if it’s safe to go to the dental office during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that depends on the safety precautions implemented at each dental office.
At Tricia Mockler, DDS, we’ve gone above and beyond the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to ensure every person who comes to our office is as safe as possible. You’re more likely to come into contact with COVID-19 in the grocery store than in our dental office.
CDC recommendations for dental offices during COVID-19
The CDC updated its safety guidelines for dental offices in August 2020, so they’re the best possible precautions based on what we currently know about COVID-19. The CDC recommends:
Using personal protective equipment
The CDC requires all dental offices to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for their patients. You are not allowed to enter the building without a mask on. If you don’t have a mask, we will provide one for one. Our staff always wear masks in the office, including full-face protection during dental procedures.
Implementing telehealth and pre-appointment triage
We already offer telehealth so we can connect online to assess your symptoms, prescribe medications, and determine if you need to come into the office.
Pre-appointment triage is a new safety measure recommended by the CDC. We talk with you before your appointment and screen for potential COVID symptoms.
We also discuss the dental care you might need and tell you about the safety precautions we follow once you’re here, including hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and respiratory hygiene.
Screening each patient before they enter the office
In another new step to protect dental patients, the CDC recommends screening each person before they come into the office. We put that into practice by meeting you at the door, screening you for symptoms and potential exposure to COVID-19, taking your temperature, and making sure you have your mask on before welcoming you into the office.
We’ve gone beyond the CDC recommendations by labeling the different doors into our office and asking each patient to come in through a specific door. With this extra step, we can do a better job of maintaining social distance during your screening and after you enter the office.
Enforcing physical distancing
We follow all CDC recommendations to ensure physical distancing. We’re limiting the number of people in the office at one time, we’ve re-arranged the waiting room to maintain distance, and we offer options like paying your bill online so you can simply leave the office and minimize interaction with the front office.
Dental practices that prevent infection
Guidelines from the CDC and American Dental Association include many specific steps that dentists can take to prevent the spread of infection during dental procedures. One example is using high evacuation suction and dental dams to minimize the amount of saliva splatter that gets into the air. During dental cleanings, we have limited the use of ultrasonic cleaners to create fewer aerosols. We also have patients rinse with a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash for one minute before the start of any treatment. Hydrogen peroxide has been shown to reduce the viral load present in the mouth.
As medical professionals, we routinely follow universal safety precautions to prevent the spread of viruses, bacteria, and other harmful organisms. During the pandemic, however, we’ve expanded our procedures. In addition to cleaning, we also thoroughly disinfect common surfaces throughout the office.
Going beyond CDC guidelines to filter the air
One of the best ways to protect you from exposure to COVID-19 in the office is by properly managing the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The CDC offers general information about managing air flow so that air from an exam room doesn’t end up in the clean air supplied to the waiting room, as one example.
We do more than follow air-flow recommendations. We revamped our HVAC system to ensure optimal protection, including installing MERV 13 air filters that are the top of the line for capturing airborne viruses and filtering the air more than 12 times an hour.
Tips to maintain dental hygiene at home during COVID-19
We encourage you to boost your own oral care during the pandemic, especially if your routine dental checkup is delayed.
While we hope you always brush twice daily and floss at least once a day, here are a few additional tips to upgrade your daily routine:
- Brush after each meal and before going to bed
- Brush your teeth for two minutes
- Floss twice daily
- Brush or scrape your tongue
- Use a fluoridated toothpaste
- Change your toothbrush every three months
- Change your toothbrush after an illness
If someone in your household is sick, you may want to disinfect your toothbrush. You can purchase a UV sanitizer, or you can disinfect the brush by soaking it in 3% hydrogen peroxide or an antibacterial mouthwash.
We’re here to help you get the dental care you need. If you have any questions about safety during dental care or if you need an appointment, call Tricia Mockler, DDS, or schedule a telehealth or in-person visit using our online system.