The coronavirus pandemic has made many of our daily activities look and feel a little different and going to the dentist is certainly one of them. In a season in which masks and personal protection equipment are becoming a standard, it has many wondering what to expect when going to the dentist during COVID.
These are valid concerns since being at the dentist usually requires close proximity of the patient to the dentist, and the patient’s mouth is unmasked when the dentist is working. However, by both the patient and the office staff taking proactive measures, going to the dentist during COVID does not have to be a fearful experience.
Learn what you can do as a patient to protect yourself and others and also learn more about what dentist offices are doing to better protect their staff and patients.
Things You Can Do Ahead of Your Visit
When going to the dentist during COVID, it can be easy to focus on what the dentist’s office will be doing to protect you. While there are some actions a dentist’s office should be taking to protect you that we will touch on further down, there are things that you can do to protect yourself and everyone else as well, including:
- After checking in with the front desk, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
- Wear a mask until the dental hygienist or dentist is ready to begin working on you.
- Take your temperature before arriving at a scheduled appointment.
- Cancel your appointment if you are not feeling well.
- Cancel your appointment if you have been exposed to a person that recently tested positive for COVID-19.
- Do not bring anyone with you to the appointment if at all possible.
- Arrive at your appointment on time and not too early in order to limit your time around others.
- Try to maintain social distancing of six feet between yourself and other patients and office staff until your name is called. Some patients may even choose to wait for their appointment outside.
What to Expect When Going to the Dentist During COVID
In most cases, even when wearing a mask, dentists are at risk as well because the patient is not wearing a mask. For this reason, most practices have a list of safety protocols they expect their employees and patients to strictly follow. Some of these safety measures for staff can include:
- Limiting the number of appointments scheduled at the same time or close together
- Offering patients a hands-free check in
- Taking a patient’s temperature upon arrival
- Surveying patients about their current health, potential COVID exposure, and recent travel right before their appointment
- Asking patients to wash their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer upon arrival
- Spacing out chairs in the waiting area to be as close to six feet apart as possible to account for recommended social distancing guidelines
- Disinfecting unremovable surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, pens, bathroom counters and handles frequently
- Wearing the proper personal protection equipment as set forth by the office (this may include a mask, face shield, scrubs, or a combination of the three)
- Keeping eye protection on
- Keeping dental tools covered up until it is time for their use
- Properly disinfecting the chair and all tools post dental work on a patient
- Discard gloves and possibly protective clothing in between patients
Safety Measures to Practice Following Your Dentist Appointment
In addition to steps you can take before and during your dentist visit to keep yourself and others safe, there are some things you can do to protect yourself upon leaving your dental appointment:
- Once you have left the dentist’s office, be sure to use hand sanitizer to help remove germs on the hands.
- Upon returning home it can still be a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, even if you used hand sanitizer.
- If you are immunocompromised, you might even want to consider changing clothes after you get home for an added level of protection.
A Word About Elective Procedures and Emergency Treatments
In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to check on availability for elective and emergency dental procedures.
Depending on the coronavirus positivity rates in your immediate area, health officials may recommend postponing elective procedures until those numbers come down. Emergency treatments are typically not able to be postponed, so be sure to speak with your dentist about how these will work in the middle of a pandemic and if any special measures may need to be taken.
Do not let the coronavirus pandemic be an excuse for letting your dental health slide. Abiding by the above measures can be a good way to feel more protected and safer at your next dental appointment.