Can I Go To My Local Dentist During The Covid-19 Pandemic?
With the COVID-19 pandemic causing chaos around the globe, many people are still staying close to their homes, either voluntarily or as required under local legislation. Unfortunately, dental pain waits for no one and many people are asking the question: Are dentists open for business and am I able to see my local dentist?
In March of this year the ADA (American Dental Association) recommended that, except for extreme emergencies, all dental practices must close. It was apparent that even the basic routines of dentistry were filled with risk for all parties concerned. Then, in early April, the ADA’s recommendation was extended until the end of the month. They recognized that many coronavirus carriers have no symptoms at all, making it virtually impossible to know who is safe to treat.
Many patients who wait until they’re experiencing intense pain before asking for help are also likely to have other health problems, thus putting them at a high risk of becoming seriously ill, or even dying, from COVID-19.
We now have a situation where dentists are not happy and patients are not happy. Besides the fact that dentists are no longer able to take care of their patients, we’re now seeing dentists laying off staff, deferring mortgages, and applying for loans in a desperate attempt to save their practices. Three-quarters of all dentists in the United States are small business owners, which means that their income is entirely dependent on the number of patients they see in their dental surgeries.
At the same time, we’re seen patients calling in with decaying molars, receding gums, and chipped teeth, with their pain exacerbated by fear and too much free time.
So let’s now take a look at the current state of dentistry in the United States.
In-Office Dental Care
At the moment, the New York State Dental Society and the ADA are only allowing emergency procedures to take place in dental surgeries. As we now know, the COVID-19 virus is spread via respiratory droplets from the throat and nose. There are some dental procedures, like cleanings and fillings, which can force large amounts of these droplets into the air, potentially spreading the virus.
Therefore, the following procedures have been postponed – routine restorations like fillings, elective surgery, and any procedure that involves the use of an ultrasonic scaler. These scalers are used to remove plaque and stains, as well as to clean teeth.
If you’re a dental patient who is experiencing some discomfort, you need to contact your dentist who will then evaluate your situation and advise what action they or you should take; keeping in mind that dental offices will possibly reopen in late August.
What’s the Definition of an Emergency Procedure
Whether a procedure is classified as an emergency or not is entirely dependent upon the level of discomfort and/or pain that a patient is experiencing; however, the following could be considered an emergency situation –
- The extraction of decayed, fractured, or severely mobile teeth.
- Treatment for pain and swelling, which, depending on the severity of the discomfort, would include drainage of infections and swellings, fillings, as well as pulpotomy (removal of a tooth’s inflamed nerve tissues).
- Denture adjustments due to sore spots: these must be treated as they often lead to open wounds that can ultimately cause infection.
- Refilling medication prescriptions. Please note that, with telemedicine, it may not be necessary for you to come into the office, so please consult with your dentist.
Is the Dental Office Safe for Me If I Have an Emergency Dental Procedure?
Yes, you will be completely safe because all dental offices follow very strict protocols on both infection control and asepsis, which means being medically and surgically free from disease-causing microorganisms, like viruses, parasites, and pathogenic bacteria and fungi.
Despite the many potential risks of keeping dental practices open, the good news is that both the CDC and World Health Organisation say that, to date, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 transmitted in a dental surgery.
In addition, the ADA is currently drafting new guidelines for when dental surgeries re-open for all types of procedures. Patients will continue to be temperature-checked and screened, social distancing will be maintained, and there will be a limited number of visitors allowed in the office at any one time. You may notice other changes when you visit your dental surgery.
We are currently noticing that many local dentists are open and prepared to take appointments for routine dental procedures. If you need to find a dentist near you, go to 911dental.com or search in your local dental directory. 911dental.com provides the names of oral care providers and local dental offices that will book an appointment on your behalf, as well as recommending COVID-19 precautions you will be required to take to protect both your safety and the safety of all staff in the dental surgery.