The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things about our daily lives. Your regular visits to the dentist have changed, too. In March, the American Dental Association recommended that dentists postpone all but emergency procedures until April 30 to help reduce the spread of the virus. As doctors of all kinds complied, the masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment made it easier to keep patients who need emergency treatment from seeking it in busy hospital emergency rooms.
Nearly four months have passed since April 30, and Idaho’s dental offices are once again seeing patients for routine cleanings and non-emergency appointments. In a time like this, where your health is most important, the ADA now recommends scheduling an appointment to see your dentist. The ADA has developed science-based guidance to dentists on extra steps they can take, in addition to the infection control procedures they’ve always followed, to help protect their patients and staff. Here’s what you can expect at your next appointment.
Before Your Appointment
To help make sure 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. These questions include how you’ve been feeling, if you’ve experienced any common COVID-19 symptoms, or if you have interacted with anyone who has recently tested positive for the virus.
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 their parent waits outside during their appointment.
At Your Appointment
Be sure to wear a mask to your appointment. When you arrive at the dental office, you may have your temperature taken and be asked to wait outside or in your car until they’re ready for you. This will reduce the number of people in the office and reduce the amount of time you’re close to other people.
Inside the office, you may notice things people often touch in the waiting room – like toys or magazines – have been removed. Waiting room chairs may be spread apart and they may have hand sanitizer available for you to use. Staff may also 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’s keyboard and screen with a disposable cover so it can be easily cleaned between patients. Your dentist and hygienist may also be using different protective equipment than they’ve used at previous appointments. This could include different masks, face shields, gowns and goggles. These additional precautions help protect both you, the dentist, and their teams.
After Your Appointment
After your appointment is over, the staff will thoroughly clean the space using disinfectants that are effective against the COVID-19 virus to prepare for the next patient. This helps reduce the risk of illness being passed to others.
If you start feeling ill with the symptoms of COVID-19 within two 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 during that time could be at risk for getting sick too.
Remember, regular dental visits are an essential part of your overall heath. Be sure to reschedule your dental checkup now that dental practices are open. Your Idaho dentist will make sure your visit is as safe as possible for everyone involved.