In 2020, dental clinics were deemed unsafe by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association. Although a lot has changed in the past two years since the development of vaccinations, some people might still be scared to go to the dentist. It’s understandable since the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be serious, contagious, and potentially deadly.
In this article, we will discuss medical safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, both from the perspective of whether you pose a risk for others and from the perspective of whether a dental office is a safe place. We will also look at a criterion to help you to decide whether you should visit a dentist.
How to Decide Whether You Should Make a Dental Appointment
Here are three scenarios that can help you decide whether you pose a risk to others by visiting a dentist.
Scenario #1: You Pose No Risk
For some people, brushing and flossing are enough to keep their mouths healthy. However, if you need a more thorough cleaning to prevent recurring infections or are dealing with critical dental issues, you might want to visit under these conditions:
* You haven’t been exposed to Coronavirus because you’ve been wearing a mask in public.
* You’ve been vaccinated.
* You’ve always tested negative at work.
* Your dental problem is getting worse every day.
Scenario #2: You May Pose a Risk
Do not schedule a dental appointment if you are not sure if you are at risk of infecting others because:
* You’ve been exposed to Coronavirus because someone at work or at home had it.
* You’re not vaccinated, or you have only had one vaccination.
* You haven’t had any tests and don’t know your risk level.
* You don’t have an urgent dental problem.
Scenario #3: You Pose a Risk
Coronavirus is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs, and it can cause symptoms like those of other respiratory infections. For this reason, you should not visit a dentist if you have any of these symptoms: a fever, chills, a dry cough, a sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, shortness of breath, and nausea.
While these are not necessarily symptoms of the Coronavirus, you still risk spreading infectious diseases to the dentist, the staff, and other patients.
A Dozen Ways Dentists Keep Patients Safe
Despite showing obvious signs of health, you still may not feel comfortable visiting your dentist because you are afraid to put yourself at risk.
However, since CDC has mandated that all dentists provide a safe working environment, dental offices are taking the following four precautions to ensure optimal hygienic standards:
1. They are disinfecting their dental tools, equipment, and surfaces more frequently.
2. They are taking precautions to keep all surgical tools clean, covering equipment, and replacing disposable instruments.
3. They are taking steps to minimize the spread of saliva. As the virus can be spread through saliva entering the bloodstream, dentists are wearing more protective gear.
4. They are using dental dams. Dentists use dental dams to prevent the spread of germs during dental procedures. This is an essential practice in every dentist’s office since it protects patients and dental staff from exposure to bacteria and viruses.
5. They are wearing face masks.
Besides these sanitary steps, dental offices are also safeguarding patients with the following six social distancing policies
1. Informal screening. In most cases, the receptionist conducts an informal interview, usually by phone. This quick process does not require the dentist’s presence. You’re likely to be asked about recent travels and if you’ve been around people with Coronavirus.
2. Spreading out appointments. Dental offices are spacing out appointments to reduce the number of visitors in the office at any one time.
3. Check-ins. On the day of your visit, the receptionist will call or text to find out if you have been showing any symptoms since the time you scheduled an appointment.
4. Mask Mandate. Patients are required to wear masks.
5. No early arrivals. You must not arrive earlier than your scheduled appointment time.
6. No visitors. You will be asked not to bring any family members, such as children who don’t need dental treatment.
7. Waiting in your car. When you arrive at the dentist’s office, you may have to wait in your car until they are ready for you. Most dental offices operate this way. If the dentist is working with a patient who has a dental emergency, you may have to wait longer than you expected. If you want to make your wait less boring and frustrating, bring something with you. Bringing a magazine, a book, or an electronic device like a tablet or e-reader is always smart.
Use this Criterion to Decide If You Should Visit Your Dentist?
If you’re not sure whether you should go, you can decide based on whether you need an elective procedure or an emergency procedure.
Elective procedures are dental procedures that are not urgent and require a certain amount of recovery time.
Here are some examples of elective procedures:
* Fixing cosmetic problems
* Teeth cleaning
* Bi-annual appointments
* Checkup for braces
In this event, seeing a dentist would be nice, but it’s also possible to visit later if you prefer.
Here are some examples of emergency procedures:
* Severe pain in the mouth
* Non-stop gum bleeding
* Broken tooth
* Lost temporary crown
* Swelling around the mouth, such as the face or neck, because of infected gums
* Dental treatment associated with biopsies and cancer treatments
* Uncomfortable dentures
* Painful braces
In this event, since there is extreme pain or discomfort, or even a life-threatening situation that requires immediate treatment, you should visit your dentist.
Reasons to Feel Optimistic in 2022
In 2020, it was risky to visit a dentist’s office. In 2022, many restrictions placed by the CDC and ADA have been lifted because dentists’ offices are now much safer. If you are healthy enough to pass an informal appointment screening and feel confident that the dental clinic you want to visit takes all the necessary precautions to ensure your safety, it’s fine to schedule an appointment. Using denTEL, a dental directory makes it easy to find a dentist in your area to discuss whether you should schedule an appointment.