Today I’d like to answer a question that everyone has been asking during this coronavirus pandemic. Is it safe to go to the dentist for a cleaning?
It’s normal to feel uneasy about doing non-emergency activities these days. But the answer is yes, it is safe to have your teeth cleaned during the pandemic.
Both the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said that dental care is considered essential healthcare. I’ll talk about that in a little bit. First, however, I’d like to share something that many people may not realize. And that is: Dentists have been taking extreme precautions with your health and safety even before the coronavirus pandemic.
Dental offices have always been known as healthcare leaders in infection control. Because dentists and hygienists work so closely in patients’ mouths, they have always had the strictest procedures in place to protect their patients and themselves from cross-contamination. Now with the pandemic, they are still practicing strict universal precautions in addition to the new Covid precautions.
These additional precautions include:
- N95 masks are worn under our surgical masks.
- Face shields are used for aerosol procedures.
- One-use gowns are worn over our scrubs per patient.
- Patients are scheduled according to aerosol producing procedures so that we alternate rooms accordingly, which is usually limited to one patient per hour.
- Likewise, the hygienist also alternates rooms for cleanings giving time for aerosols to rest. The room will then be re-wiped for a second time after aerosols settle.
In addition, when you visit us:
- We ask that you wear a mask or face covering when you walk into our office.
- Your temperature will be taken upon your arrival. If you have a fever or any “flu-like” symptoms, we won’t be able to see you that day. We will reschedule your appointment after a 14 day period.
- If there is another patient in the waiting room, we ask you to stay 6 feet apart.
- To minimize germs, we have removed all magazines from our waiting area.
- If you don’t have a chance to wash your hands before your appointment, we offer hand washing or sanitizer beforehand.
- You will be asked to pre-rinse your mouth with a mouth rinse before your procedure.
Now let’s go back to what the ADA and CDC said about dental care being essential healthcare. A cleaning is obviously different than going to the dentist in an emergency. You may think it’s ok to skip your cleanings if you take good care of your teeth at home. While flossing and brushing two or more times per day is necessary for a healthy mouth, it’s simply not enough. If you skip your 6-month dental cleanings, you’re taking a big risk with your oral health as well as your overall health.
First, you risk tooth decay. Yes, the flossing and brushing you’re doing at home will remove plaque, but it won’t get all of the spots that your hygienist will get to. If plaque is ignored, over time bacteria will build up on your teeth which could lead to tooth decay and the start of periodontal disease.
The next risk you’re taking is gum disease. If your gums are swollen, red or bleed when you floss or brush, they should be looked at by a dentist. Gum disease can be reversed, but it needs to be treated properly.
And now for one of the biggest risks – your overall health. Yes, your whole body could depend on that visit for a cleaning. Many studies have shown that oral health is directly related to your heart’s health. So when you get your teeth cleaned, you’re also helping to protect your heart. In addition, when you visit the dentist, he or she looks for signs that indicate you may have other health problems. Did you know that your mouth can also show signs of oral cancers, diabetes and kidney failure?
The lesson here is: Don’t miss those 6-month cleanings!
Here at my office, we will continue to adjust to Colorado regulations as they occur. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, please call 303-984-0307. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we hope to see you very soon!