by Dr. Atefeh Sareh
Does the idea of climbing into the dentist’s chair make you feel anxious? What about doing so during a pandemic? Since the outbreak of COVID-19, people have had to make choices about their priorities for health and wellness, deciding what is worth the risk of venturing out in public.
Now that routine dental care has resumed, many wonder if it’s safe to go to the dentist. Exploring the vital role of dental care, the latest safety precautions for dental practices and the importance of timely care and maintenance will help you make the best decision for your health.
Examine Your Overall Health
First, it’s important to consider the impact of dental care on your health. “Oral health is an important part of overall health,” said American Dental Association (ADA) president Dr. Chad Gehani in a press release. “Resuming regular dental visits are important because treatment, as well as prevention of dental disease, helps keep people healthy.”
Understand Safety Precautions
Second, you should consider how dentists and dental personnel are working hard to keep you and your family safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ADA encourage the following science-based best practices:
● Triage: Your dental office will call you to assess your health and travel history prior to your appointment.
● Staggered appointments: Dental personnel will schedule appointments in order to minimize the number of people in the waiting room at one time. These time slots will account for the time required to clean and disinfect between patients.
● Symptom screening: Once you arrive for your appointment, dental personnel will check your temperature and ask you about COVID-19 symptoms that may have developed since your phone screening.
● Streamlined waiting rooms: If possible, go to your appointment alone. If you are taking your child to an appointment, consider waiting in the car during the visit. The waiting room will contain minimal high-touch items, such as magazines, toys and TV remote controls.
● Personal protective equipment (PPE): Wear a mask when you arrive at the office and keep it on until it’s time for your appointment. The staff will wear the following PPE: a surgical or N95 mask, eye protection (goggles with side shields or a full-face shield), a sterile gown and gloves.
● Physical distancing: Patients will be kept at least 6 feet apart in waiting rooms and treatment rooms. Single-patient treatment rooms are preferred.
● Hand hygiene: Take advantage of hand sanitizer stations placed throughout the facility to prevent the spread of disease. Dental personnel will clean or sanitize hands before and after interacting with patients and putting on PPE. Personnel will also clean or sanitize hands after coming in contact with any potentially contaminated materials.
● Regular cleaning and disinfection: Dental personnel will regularly clean high-touch surfaces throughout the facility including furniture, clipboards, light switches, keyboards, countertops, and doorknobs.
● Singular care: The staff will care for one patient at a time to minimize the spread of disease.
● Aerosol-generating procedures: By avoiding aerosol-generating procedures, dental personnel will minimize the spread of potentially infectious droplets. Whenever possible, personnel will use hand scaling to clean teeth, high-velocity suction and dental dams to minimize droplet spatter and aerosols.
● Equipment sterilization and maintenance: Dental personnel will follow a strict schedule of sterilization and maintenance for all equipment. This includes the proper storage and cleaning of equipment that remains unused for a period of time.
Get The Timing Right
Third, when it comes to maintaining oral health, timing is key. “The longer patients go without preventive care and treatment for early forms of dental disease, the more likely their untreated disease will progress,” explained Gehani in the press release.
Taking the time for dental care prevents you from developing a serious disease that could require immediate dental treatment at an overburdened emergency room. This allows hospital staff to focus on caring for patients with other emergency conditions like COVID-19.
Find Immediate Dental Care
Now that you’re ready to get back in the chair, it’s important to find immediate dental care near you to avoid excessive travel due to quarantine restrictions. Perhaps you’re wondering, “How can I find the best dentist near me?” Check out West Coast Dental’s multiple locations throughout Southern California.
In addition to following the established best practices, West Coast Dental is asking patients to rinse with 1 percent hydrogen peroxide before each appointment since COVID-19 is vulnerable to oxidation. The office is fully staffed and offers extended hours to serve your dental care needs. To see the best dentist near you, book an appointment today.