With the news that the novel coronavirus spreads through airborne particles, some of which may remain suspended in the air for hours after the infected individual has left the room, many dental professionals and patients alike are concerned about continuing to provide non-urgent dental treatment during this crisis. If you have a cleaning scheduled in the near future, should you reschedule? And if you need a more urgent procedure, what precautions should you and your dentist take to protect against the spread of coronavirus? Learn more about how dental professionals are responding to this crisis.
Should You Reschedule a Routine Dental Appointment?
If you're sticking with twice-annual dental cleanings and checkups, it shouldn't hurt to postpone your appointment for a month or two. But if it's been a while since your last cleaning and you're dealing with some more serious issues (like pain or swelling), you may want to reconsider rescheduling. The connection between dental health and heart health is clear, and allowing undiagnosed issues to fester can compromise your ability to fight infection, including COVID-19.
This means that if your appointment is to address a more urgent issue, like a toothache, an abscess that won't heal, or a cavity, it's important to keep it. A tooth infection can spread to the bone in your jaw or even into your bloodstream, leading to systemic infections like sepsis or endocarditis (infection of the heart).
How Can You and Your Dentist Protect Against the Spread of Coronavirus?
The American Dental Association (ADA) has issued guidance to dental professionals to help them maintain sterility and reduce the risk of patient-to-dentist or patient-to-patient infection during the coronavirus pandemic.
Effective March 19, 2020, the ADA has recommended that dentists postpone any elective procedures (like dental cleanings, veneers, teeth whitening procedures, braces adjustment, or non-emergency extractions) for at least three weeks. By concentrating only on emergency procedures, dentists are able to avoid overburdening hospital ERs with these types of dental issues while still providing a vital service to their patients.
For these emergency procedures, dentists and dental hygienists are taking extra precautions to help avoid the spread of coronavirus. These precautions include spacing out dental appointments so that the office can be thoroughly sterilized between each patient, using safety goggles in addition to masks to help keep any infectious particles at bay, and asking patients to self-report any travel or coronavirus exposure so that the dentist can take additional precautions or reschedule the procedure to account for the 14-day incubation period.
Depending on how the coronavirus crisis progresses, the recommendation to postpone elective procedures may be extended beyond mid-April.
To learn more, contact a clinic that offers dental health services.