Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

Going to the Dentist in this COVID-19 Era

Editor’s note: As many states look to “re-open,” some of us may be looking to do what might have been put off during the last few weeks of COVID-19 isolation – such as, going to the dentist. T help Michael Wong, JD (Founder/Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety) interviewed Bradley T. Truax, MD about what precautions dentists and their patients should consider.

By Michael Wong, JD (Founder/Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

As many states look to “re-open,” some of us may be looking to do what might have been put off during the last few weeks of COVID-19 isolation – such as, going to the dentist.

So, with that in mind, I interviewed Bradley T. Truax, MD. Dr Traux is board-certified in both Neurology and Internal Medicine. He is a clinician and educator with 20+ years of experience in medical administration. He has been involved in patient safety for over 25 years.Bradley Truax

I asked Dr. Traux about what precautions dentists and their patients should consider.

Michael Wong: 

As a patient, what are some key considerations I should think about before going to the dentist during the current COVID-19 situation?

Bradley T. Truax, MD: 

If it’s just for routine matters, like cleanings, the American Dental Association recommends that dental visits be restricted to “all but urgent and emergency care.”.

Dental care that you should have taken care of by a dentist even during this COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop
  • Painful swelling in or around your mouth
  • Pain in a tooth, teeth or jaw bone
  • Gum infection with pain or swelling
  • After surgery treatment (dressing change, stitch removal)
  • Broken or knocked out tooth
  • Denture adjustment for people receiving radiation or other treatment for cancer
  • Snipping or adjusting wire of braces that hurts your cheek or gums
  • Biopsy of abnormal tissue

In other words, don’t go unless you have to.

Wong: As a dentist, what precautions should I take when seeing patients during this COVID-19 pandemic? 

Dr. Traux: 

The Indiana Dental Association (Indiana is one of the first states reopening dental practices) has several practical recommendations:

  • Ask patients to wait in their cars and call the office to “check in” once they have arrived and have a staff member call or text the patient when a treatment room is available.
  • Escort the patient directly to the treatment room where he or she may fill out any required paperwork and answer any medical health questions while sequestered.
  • Wipe down the clipboard and writing utensil after each patient has completed check-in paperwork.
  • Discourage patients from bringing companions to their appointment, except pediatric patients, people with special needs, elderly patients, etc. In those cases, limit companions to just one.
  • Remove magazines, reading materials, toys and other objects that may be touched by others and which are not easily disinfected.
  • Print and place signage in the dental office for instructing patients on standard recommendations for respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette and social distancing.
  • Schedule appointments far enough apart to minimize possible contact with other patients in the waiting room.
  • Allow time to disinfect and set up the room for the next patient.
  • Surfaces such as door handles, chairs, desks, elevators, and bathrooms should be cleaned and disinfected frequently.

This means that you, your staff, and your patient need to plan and take precautions.

For more advice, please see my patient safety tip, “COVID-19 and the Dental Office.” 

 

6 thoughts on “Going to the Dentist in this COVID-19 Era

  1. I’m glad that going to the dentist would still be an option if you have a dental emergency. I could see how it would be pretty rough if you couldn’t; get a broken tooth fixed, so it would be good to be able to still see a dentist. I’ll have to remember that is still an option if one of my kids ever chips a tooth or something.

  2. This is some really good information about how to go to the dentist during the pandemic. I have been having some issues with one of my left molars. It is nice to know that it would be smart to consider going to a dentist’s office that is good at disinfecting things.

  3. Brindia Gaines

    I still don’t know whether I want to go to the dentist. I have insurance and need a cleaning. I guess I will go; just try to be brave. This COVID is getting to me big time. One just doesn’t know what to believe and who to trust.

    • Michael Wong

      Dear Brindia, these are certainly scary times – particularly when wearing masks has been politicized and the voice of national leadership is not delivering the same message. Erring on the side of caution is the best course for keeping yourself safe. If you are walking outside of your home, please be sure to avoid crowds, wear a face mask, keep at least six feet between you and anyone you encounter while outside, and don’t touch crosswalk buttons, posts, pets that are not your own, etc. with your hands, bring a hand sanitizer – and when you return home, wash your hands.

  4. Sarah

    Thanks for informing me that even though we are supposed to quarantine, we still need to get dental care for broken or knocked-out teeth and bleeding that doesn’t stop. My husband has had problems with bleeding gums for a while, and he just came home with two of his teeth in his hand. I’ll see if I can find a dentist in our area that can treat him quickly.

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