For the latest news and information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.
WHO released a statement in August recommending skipping routine dental checkups and cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. They said you should only see the dentist for necessary procedures, even if you are in pain, have an infection or need emergency treatment. In the meantime, WHO recommends the use of “remote consultations” if you are unsure whether or not to see a dentist.
In response, the American Dental Association issued a statement stating that it “strongly” contradicts WHO recommendations on dental care and that it is important to see a dentist. “Dentistry is an essential health care provider because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing, or treating oral diseases that can affect systemic health,” said ADA President Dr. Chad P. Gehani, DDS, in the statement.
Although you should speak to your own dentist before making any quick decisions, the safety concerns about visiting the dentist this year are ambiguous. I spoke to an orthodontist for more information on how to navigate this complicated (and personal) decision.
Why Going to the Dentist Can Be Risky
“The relative safety when visiting the dentist is currently very state and individual. For states with an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, I would recommend that you only see your dentist in an emergency (severe pain or infection).” Heather Kunen, DDS, MS and Co-Founder of Beam Street.
According to the WHO report, due to the nature of oral health visits due to the way experts believe the virus is transmitted, there is a risk of coronavirus contracting the coronavirus to both patients and health care workers. First, there is evidence that respiratory droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, and speaking spread the virus. Since they work in your mouth and are in close contact with you (far closer than 6 feet), your dentist will be exposed to these droplets – along with blood and saliva.
Second, the WHO suggests that the coronavirus can be spread through aerosol transmission. Many common dental procedures, such as Such as teeth cleaning, create aerosols, putting workers at risk of contracting the virus.
In addition to the risks for patients and workers listed above, you must take into account that you cannot wear a mask during a visit to the dentist, which makes you susceptible to germs from other people in your area and allows germs to spread. Since it is possible to get infected with the coronavirus and show no symptoms, you can unknowingly spread it at your next dentist appointment or contract it from a contractual partnerProviders.
In contrast, visiting a general practitioner is likely to pose a lower safety risk because both the doctor and patient can keep their distance as much as possible and wear masks for most procedures.
Dentists have used personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, and face shields for decades, but according to the FDA, PPE cannot completely eliminate the risk of transmitting a virus. “For those states whose cases have leveled off, conditions for emergency and / or routine appointments may be safer, although adequate precautions should still be taken with PPE,” says Dr. Kunen.
If you are classified as high risk (e.g. if you already have an illness or are over 65 years of age) or ifYou may want to withhold your routine visits no matter what the virus conditions are in your community. “These high-risk patients should only go to the dentist if they are in pain or have infection. Overall, I would advise every patient to call their provider for the best guidance on how to visit the doctor,” says Dr. Kunen.
What dental offices do to keep patients safe
Many dental offices are increasing security measures to ensure the safety of patients and workers.
“In my office we installed new air filter systems, added additional barriers between dentist chairs, implemented increased PPE and limited the number of patients who can be in the office at the same time,” says Dr. Kunen.
When you go to the dentist, you will likely need to answer questions about your health and if you have had contact with someone who may have the virus prior to your appointment. Temperature tests are also common.
Whether or not you should go to the dentist is ultimately a personal decision. Knowing the potential risks, consider your own comfort with the circumstances and do what feels best for you and your situation.
“We are still at a very early stage to understand this mysterious virus and I think it is impossible to properly assess the safety of entering populated areas,” says Dr. Kunen. “I advise patients who are still very concerned about contracting the virus to wait for conditions to improve or for us to better understand COVID-19.”
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions about a disease or health goals.