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