COVID-19 has led to massive changes in nearly all aspects of life, including dentistry. Given the close proximity between a patient and dentist and the involvement of the patient’s saliva, it is logical to have some concerns about dentistry during the pandemic. The proper precautions make it possible for dentists to safely give dental care and patients to receive care.
Major organizations, including the FDI World Dental Federation and CDC, have published suggestions for precautions in dentistry.
Dentistry Is Still Essential
The statement from the FDI council clarifies that dentistry is considered essential and should remain accessible for the overall health of patients. As part of that, dentists and oral health professionals should be part of the major conversations on health care regulation and guidance.
Reinforcing Oral Disease Prevention
Another official recommendation from the FDI council is for those in oral health care to promote the importance of preventing oral disease. That means offering educational content that encourages clients to brush and floss regularly. This can help reduce the number of dentist appointments patients need, reducing their risk as well as the risk of others who visit the same dental practice.
Considering Postponing Some Visits and Procedures
The CDC suggests that dentists carefully consider whether surgeries, procedures, and other nonurgent outpatient visits could be postponed. This reconsideration is particularly important if there is a higher risk of COVID infection, such as due to a lack of PPE.
To help evaluate the risk-reward for various procedures, OSHA published a table dividing the dentistry tasks based on the risk of exposure.
Screening and More Before Appointments
Another CDC recommendation that most dentists have followed is screening patients before their appointments. With telephone screenings, dentists’ offices confirm that patients do not have any COVID-19 symptoms and have not been exposed to it.
Dentists also are changing waiting room practices. Patients are now encouraged to not bring people with them unless necessary, and if so, to keep it to a minimum. Essentially, only those who are needed should go into the office. If someone does accompany dental patients, they need to wear a facemask and will also be screened for COVID-19.
At the Office
At the dentist’s office, the screening continues with a temperature check and confirmation that anyone entering the building is wearing a facemask.
If someone comes to the office with a fever or other symptoms, then a staff member will ask them to reschedule their appointment.
Protective Changes to the Dental Office
Dentists have put up signs by entrances and at other key areas on topics such as handwashing and wearing a mask to ensure patients know how to stay safe from COVID-19.
Reception areas typically have plastic or glass windows in place to minimize the contact between the receptionist and patients. There is also hand sanitizer at strategic points in most offices and waiting rooms, including by the entrance.
The waiting rooms at most dentists no longer have magazines, toys, or other items that many people are likely to touch.
Dental offices are using PPE (personal protective equipment) to help keep patients and their staff safe. This includes the requirement that patients wear masks in the waiting room and anyone accompanying them wears a mask throughout their visit. It also includes dentists and dental hygienists wearing masks, face shields, and gloves, as well as disposable protective robes or smocks.
Responding to the Potential Spread
Per CDC recommendations, most dentists have also asked patients to let them know if they develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive within two days of their appointment. This allows the dentists, receptionists, and other staff members to get tested and let other patients know that they may need testing.
If you have questions about our COVID-19 safety measures or appointment procedures contact us today!