If you’re scheduled to get your teeth cleaned soon, you’ll have to wait a while. That’s because the American Dental Association (ADA) and CDC are asking all dental offices to stop non-urgent visits and surgeries. That includes routine care from your dentist and orthodontist. This hold will last several weeks, maybe longer. This will help limit the spread of coronavirus. Here’s more about what that means.
Why You Can’t Go to the Dentist
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets. That’s what flies through the air when you cough or sneeze. If someone breathes this in, they can get sick. It’s also in the mucus and saliva in your mouth and throat. Those are fluids your dentist and their tools easily come in contact with. Some dental devices can spray these droplets around.
Most dental offices aren’t designed for high levels of protection. That’s because many don’t have:
- Airborne infection isolation rooms
- Rooms for one client
- Any or enough N95 face masks
Skipping routine treatments also lets your dentist focus on emergency care. That can save people a trip to the hospital, where health care workers may need to treat those with COVID-19 or other serious illnesses. It also means they’ll go through less personal protective equipment (PPE). That’s gear like masks, gloves, gowns, and face shields. Because of the pandemic, some health care workers are running out of PPE.
What Are Non-Urgent Treatments?
These are sometimes called elective procedures. It’s dental work that doesn’t affect your health right now. In other words, you can reschedule it. Some examples include:
- Teeth cleaning or exams
- Treatment for things that don’t hurt (cavities, tooth removal)
- Teeth whitening
- Fixing cosmetic problems
- Checkup for braces
What Is an Emergency Treatment?
You can still get care for a serious dental problem. The ADA considers anything life-threatening something that needs to be treated right away. Ultimately, your dentist decides what’s urgent.
In most cases, you can still get dental care for:
- Serious pain
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Tissue that needs a biopsy
- Swollen areas in or around your mouth (gums, face, or neck)
- Broken teeth, especially if they cause pain or tissue damage
- Signs of infection (pain and swelling)
- Post-surgery care you can’t do yourself
- A temporary crown that’s lost or broken
- Dental work related to cancer treatment
Dentures that don’t work the right way
- Wires in your braces that hurt
- Trauma that may affect your ability to breathe
You should call your dentist first. They can answer any questions about what’s covered. If they can’t see you during an emergency, you can go to an urgent care center or the hospital. But the ER shouldn’t be your first stop if your dentist is available.
Is the Dentist Office Safe?
You come into contact with germs anytime you leave your house. But all health care workers should follow certain safety guidelines. Your dentist and others working with them should wash their hands and sterilize tools. Some gear and needles are never reused. But your dentist’s office may do even more to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like:
- Disinfect all surfaces and tools more often
- Clean, replace, and cover tools between uses
- Always wear protective gear
- Cover your mouth with a rubber dental dam
They may also:
- Check your temperature and other symptoms
- Ask about recent travel
- Ask if you’ve been around people with COVID-19
- Tell you not to arrive early
- Place waiting room chairs 6 feet apart (social distancing)
- Space out appointments
Tell your dentist if you have COVID-19 or think you do.
Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. There are special steps they can take to lower the chances the virus will spread. They’ll work with you and your doctor to get you the right care.
When Can You Go Back to the Dentist?
Ask your dentist to keep you updated. They’ll let you know when you can reschedule.
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