The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of aspects of daily life, including regular visits to the dentist.
Now that states are reopening, many dental practices are beginning to see patients for non-emergency appointments. To help protect patients and staff alike, the American Dental Association (ADA) has developed science-based guidance for dentists on extra steps they can take, in addition to the infection control procedures they’ve always followed.
With this guidance in mind, here’s what you can expect at your next appointment.
Before Your Appointment
To help make sure that patients arriving for their appointments are healthy, your dental office may call you before your appointment and ask you some questions about your current health. They may also repeat these questions when you arrive to make sure nothing has changed.
Your dentist’s office staff may also ask that you limit the number of people you bring to the appointment. That could mean leaving your children at home or allowing older children to go into the office alone while parents wait outside during their appointment.
At Your Appointment
If your state or local jurisdiction is requiring people to wear masks in public, be sure to wear one to your appointment. When you arrive at the dental office, you may be asked to wait outside until they’re ready for you. This is to reduce the number of people in the office and reduce the amount of time you’re close to others.
When you enter the office, you may have your temperature taken. Inside the office, you may notice that items people often touch in the waiting room, like toys or magazines, have been removed. The office may have hand sanitizer available for you to use and staff may wipe down items you touch, such as pens, clipboards or furniture.
When you’re in the dental chair, you may notice some things look different from the last time you were there. The dentist may have covered the computer keyboard with a disposable cover so it can be easily cleaned between patients, for example.
Your dentist may also be using different protective equipment than used at previous appointments. This could include different masks, face shields, gowns and goggles. These additional precautions help protect both you and the dentist.
After Your Appointment
After your appointment, the staff will prepare for the next patient by thoroughly cleaning the areas where you’ve been with disinfectants effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. This helps reduce the risk of illness being passed to others.
If you start feeling ill with the symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of your appointment, call the dental office. You may have already been carrying the virus at the time of your appointment, so anyone who came into contact with you could be at risk for getting sick too.
Visit mouthhealthy.org for up-to-date information around dental visits and COVID-19.
Remember, regular dental visits are an essential part of your oral hygiene routine and are important for your overall heath. Be sure to reschedule your dental checkups once your local authorities allow dental practices to reopen. Your dentist will make sure your visit is as safe as possible for everyone involved.