Just like many other industries across the world, dentists have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. As soon as the lockdown was announced, dental clinics closed, and only offered emergency procedures (taking into account guidelines provided by health care governing bodies).
Dental clinics closed down because of the nature of the virus, and how it is spread. Since the virus is spread through respiratory droplets, in a dental setting, the risks of potential spread were quite high. Now that many countries are easing the lockdown, dental offices are reopening to offer elective procedures, like teeth scaling. The experience of visiting the dentist will be different than what patients were used to prior to the pandemic. Many clinics have new safety procedures in place to prevent patients, staff and dentists from being exposed to the virus.
If your dentist has implemented the appropriate safety measures, it is definitely safe for you to see them for a dental check-up.
Many dental clinics are enforcing the following, or some variation of, these safety process changes:
- Appointments are scheduled to encourage social distancing. They are keeping the capacity very low and seeing one patient at a time. Patients are being asked to enter the facility (e.g. via text from a parking lot), have their appointments, and are escorted out immediately after their appointment
- Waiting rooms and lounges look very different. Everything from toys, magazines, and snack bars have been removed from the spaces. If a patient has an appointment, and they are early, they are asked to wait in the car until the previous patient is finished
- Everything is disinfected in the office, including the equipment used. Dentists and staff clean thoroughly before and after every patient appointment
- Safety regarding airflow is considered, dental clinics are using a more effective ventilation system to cleanse the air. Physical barriers, such as plastic dividers, are used to prevent unnecessary contact between staff and patients
- Dentists and staff are vigorously sanitizing all the tools before and after the appointment. Chairs and non-disposable items are disinfected between each treatment. There are sanitizers at the entrance, in the operation room, and at the reception desk
- Dentists wear a mask at all times. Other forms of PPE are also followed, like gloves, face shields, hairnets and body gowns or suits. They are also making it a point to change PPE between each patient to prevent cross-contamination.
What can you do to stay safe before and during your next appointment?
Before your appointment, make sure your dentist is following all PPE procedures.
Self-monitor your own health by checking your temperature. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, you should consider self-isolating. Wear a mask before you enter the dental office and thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands. Wearing gloves is optional, but it is recommended to use a tissue or disposable material to prevent directly touching doorknobs.
Following these guidelines will help you, along with your dentist and their staff, remain safe and healthy.