One of the industries that were regulated during COVID-19 lockdowns was the dental industry. Dentists were considered at very high risk for exposure by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They commonly use air-water syringes for dental procedures, and they could easily catch the infection through air droplets from a patient’s saliva, and the CDC warned that even wearing face shields and masks could not guarantee their safety.
That said, those with private practices and hospitals with a dental wing were asked to limit their services for urgent and emergency dental care only. Now that states are starting to open up, some dental offices are already starting to accept patients, though there are still some restrictions. Here’s what you need to know:
What Are Considered Dental Emergencies?
Dentists suggest there really isn’t a fixed definition for what constitutes as a dental emergency since people have different levels of pain tolerance. However, the one rule they suggest you follow is to only come in for a consultation in person if the pain cannot be managed by over-the-counter medication. Otherwise, phone ahead and see if you can consult with your dentist over the phone.
The same rule of thumb applies to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. A common side effect of chemotherapy is oral pain. Talk to your health care provider and see what your best options are, as cancer patients are also considered high risk.
Should I Do Something Differently With My Oral Health Routine?
Maintaining your oral health is now more important than ever. Even though restrictions have eased, some dentists are still not accepting work for common procedures such as teeth cleaning or replacing fillings. It is up to you then to ensure that you stick to your daily routine:
- Brush your teeth twice a day.
- Floss regularly.
- Avoid sugar-laden foods and beverages.
Additionally, dentists also advice that you gargle twice a day. While you could always choose to use commercial mouthwashes, most dentists suggest that a simple salt and water solution is just as effective. It is often used as a home remedy for sore throat and the common cold, but during this time when you can’t visit your dentist for regular check-ups, it is just as effective in cleaning the bacteria in your mouth.
To make the perfect solution, fill a large enough glass bottle with four cups of fresh, clean water and add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda. Take a small cupful after brushing and gargle for 30 seconds.
What are Dentists Doing to Protect Themselves and Their Patients Against the Virus?
Most dental offices will be following the guidelines set by their own state health departments and dental boards. Generally, this would include a form of physical distancing, COVID-19 screening procedures, and enhanced hygiene practices. Some dental offices have also started using aerosol boxes when treating patients as an added precaution.
Another thing to keep in mind is that dentists will more likely be raising their fees as more restrictions are eased and more patients need to be seen. They would need the extra fees to cover the added expense of PPEs, face shields, and aerosol boxes. Smaller dental offices have also been closed these past two months, so the additional fees would help make up for the difference during those couple of months.