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Due to the nature of how COVID-19 is transmitted, many might be wondering: is it safe to go to the dentist to clean up this pandemic?
Back in August 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised against visiting the dentist for routine dental checkups and cleaning during the coronavirus outbreak.
In the interest of public health and safety, the WHO recommended that only necessary procedures and emergencies warrant in-person dental visits, citing remote consultations as an alternative.
Yes, it’s relatively safe, though that doesn’t mean that risks are not present. In fact, dentists argue that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is much lower for patients as opposed to dentists themselves since masks and face coverings tend to be more beneficial in keeping germs away from healthy individuals when an infected person is wearing a mask, and not the other way around.
Because dental procedures like teeth cleaning involve the use of high-powered dental tools, viral particles from a patient’s mouth like blood and saliva can be sprayed in greater amounts onto the dentists themselves and the office’s surfaces, thus putting dental workers at greater risk due to longer exposure.
However, the American Dental Association (ADA) strongly disagreed with this recommendation, stating that procedures such as cleaning are essential to overall healthcare as dental care itself is important in the diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases that may affect the body’s other systems.
Still, many dental offices have closed down their practices unless it’s to accommodate emergency dental procedures as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But as 2020 transitioned into 2021, lockdown restrictions slowly loosened in many places.
Establishments and businesses that have otherwise been closed are allowed to open, provided that the proper safety measures such as social distancing and wearing of masks are put in place.
As some semblance of normality starts to return, this has prompted many people to ask, “Is it safe to get my teeth cleaned during COVID-19?”
Even before the pandemic, dental clinics already practiced numerous safety protocols that adhered to the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) simply because of how dental procedures are conducted.
With the pandemic still ongoing, stricter measures have been exercised such as social distancing and routine disinfections on top of regular safety protocols such as wearing protective gear like gloves, surgical masks, and goggles.
Dentists have also implemented scheduled visits as opposed to walk-ins, and some dentists may even ask their patients to wait in the car for their turn instead of waiting inside the clinic.
There are also screening procedures before and during the visit, such as checking a patient’s medical history and temperature.
Of course, it goes without saying that patients won’t be able to wear masks during the procedure, which also makes infection possible since the coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets making their way through the mouth, nose, and eyes.
Additionally, while there’s protocol for staff to stay home when showing symptoms, those who are asymptomatic may still end up infecting a patient.
Being aware of these risks can then help you decide whether you should visit a dental clinic for cleaning.
Though safety measures encourage people not to schedule in-person appointments for non-urgent procedures, dentists do not recommend foregoing routine cleaning procedures, especially for those who are suffering from dental concerns related to underlying conditions such as diabetes.
Moreover, delaying dental cleaning procedures can lead to other major health concerns such as gum disease, which can lead to even more serious illnesses like heart disease.
You might not be exposed to the virus, but not having proper dental care can lead to periodontal disease that can cause lung and heart infections, aspiration, and localized damage to the teeth and mouth.
What could have been a simple tooth extraction could also result in a painful and more expensive root canal procedure.
In-person appointments become even more important for those who are experiencing dental emergencies such as bleeding, swelling, pain, or trauma from an accident as these necessitate immediate treatment.
While some people may still be hesitant to see their dentist for fear of contracting the virus, it is not recommended to delay emergency procedures, and patients are advised to remotely consult with their dentists instead of foregoing the visit altogether.
So, is it advisable to go to the dentist during COVID-19? For those who need immediate oral care, yes, it is.
However, this doesn’t mean that those who simply need routine dental cleaning should not schedule check-ups either. In fact, cleaning is considered an essential procedure that can help prevent more major dental health concerns resulting in other illnesses.
If you still want to minimize your visits to the dentist, one way you can take care of your oral health at home is to always brush your teeth and floss regularly.
This simple habit can go a long way in making sure that your teeth and gums are in tip-top shape.
Tiger Smile Family Dentistry offers a variety of dental care services and treatments in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Led by Dr. Cecilia L. Luong, her team of dentists have been assisting clients with different teeth, gum, and mouth problems.