Access To Dental Care During A Pandemic: Is It Safe?

When the pandemic started and people were forced to stay indoors indefinitely (unless necessary), one of the main concerns on our minds was how we would have access to health care that is not COVID-related?

While medical concerns can be addressed via telehealth, one of the biggest questions is what will happen to our dental concerns?

Is it still safe to go to a dentist’s clinic at this time?

At the onset of the health crisis, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all lines of business, save the essential ones, to temporarily cease operations. Unfortunately, while the healthcare industry is spared from this, the dental community somewhat got hit.

Since then, the CDC and the American Dental Association, or ADA, have changed their stance and recommend that dental teams assess the risks involved in their areas before providing their patients with the necessary dental care.

While generally, the economy has reopened, and businesses and establishments are slowly recovering from the effects of COVID, the risk of exposure to the disease is still great. The vaccination programs being rolled out worldwide do not guarantee immunity from the disease, after all. It just means that the effects won’t be as severe.

With that in mind, many people are asking how safe it is to go and visit their dentist.

One should remember that the World Health Organization and the CDC are very strict regarding business compliance with COVID protocols. This includes your favorite dentist and their team. Handwashing and constant sanitizing of surroundings and equipment are required for them to continue operating during this pandemic.

Since dentists and their assistants mostly need to deal with patients’ mouths (which are highly sensitive to the virus), they most likely go above and beyond the typical hand washing and sanitizing. They disinfect all surfaces and tools more often compared to other businesses. They are also more inclined to wear more protective gear for their safety and yours.

On top of all that, they may have their own set of COVID rules that will ensure greater workplace safety to minimize the risk of disease exposure and transmission.

Man with toothache

When should you go to the dentist despite the pandemic?

Before heading out the door for a trip to your family dentist, you should call in first and see if an in-person appointment is necessary. Tell the dentist your concern so they can qualify if it’s an emergency procedure or an elective one.

Emergency Procedures

According to the ADA, a dental concern should be addressed and treated immediately if life-threatening, extremely painful, can cause high-risk infections, and crucial to a person’s survival.

Here are a few examples of poor dental health that dentists can qualify as emergencies:

  • Oral cancer complications. If you have been diagnosed with head, mouth, or throat cancer and you require urgent treatment, you are qualified to see your dentist immediately.
  • Severe tooth decay. Cavities that cause extreme pain in a patient are qualified for an appointment. If severe tooth decay is left untreated, it may cause greater infection, more pain, tooth loss, and even organ dysfunction.
  • Advanced gum disease. Any periodontal or untreated gum disease can be life-threatening. If your gum disease has worsened in a matter of weeks and you’re suffering from abnormal bleeding, it’s time to go and see your dentist.

Non-emergency cases

Certain dental procedures are not necessary for one’s survival at this time. These are called elective procedures. If you’re worried about contracting the coronavirus, these types of procedures can be put off at a later time when things are a lot better and safer. Here are some examples:

  • Cosmetic fix-ups
  • Teeth cleaning and whitening
  • Treatment for non-painful tooth and cavity removals
  • Dental x-rays

These and other similar cases are not high on a person’s dental care priority list and can be done at another time. For maintenance concerns, you can always consult with your dentist online to know if what you have is a valid dental emergency or not.

When it comes to proper dental care, it is best to call in first before making any appointments. It is highly discouraged to show up at the clinic without pre-approved appointments unless it is an emergency. And it can only be considered an emergency if your dentist qualifies it as such. If you have COVID or have been exposed to one who has it, you need to inform your dentist about it during the call. They will do all they can and work with your doctor so you can receive the best health and oral treatment possible.

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