Dental Care During the Pandemic: Should You Go to the Dentist Even if It’s Not an Emergency?
Visiting a dentist for routine care during the COVID-19 pandemic can raise concerns of potential virus transmission. Since the virus is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets, increasing the risk of exposure through oral examinations can prompt many to delay routine treatments. At the beginning of the pandemic, government regulations and guidelines also caused many dental offices to delay or reschedule non-urgent procedures such as semi-annual exams and cleanings. However, many of these regulations have been relaxed to allow dentists to administer non-urgent procedures using certain precautions and new protocols. Search dentist Berkhamsted (or dentists in your area) to check if they are open for appointments.
Definition of Non-Urgent Procedures
Routine or non-emergency procedures performed by a family dentist include taking x-rays of teeth, exams, and cleanings, treating minor or moderate cavities, extractions of teeth that aren’t causing pain, whitening teeth, correcting cosmetic issues, and routine checkups for orthodontic patients. Some of these procedures are considered preventative care, such as semi-annual exams and cleanings. These procedures help prevent issues such as cavities and also help identify emerging problems before they become more serious.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, it is still possible to seek dental care for these types of procedures. Depending upon local regulations and evolving CDC guidance, patients may be required to wear a mask, disclose whether they have been exposed to someone diagnosed with the coronavirus, have their temperatures taken upon arrival, and state whether they have been experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, in some states the methods dentists use to carry out non-urgent treatments such as cleanings may be more limited.
What are Emergency or Urgent Procedures?
According to the American Dental Association, an urgent or emergency procedure is anything that involves the prevention of immediate infection, the relief of severe pain, or the correction of a problem that threatens the life of the patient. Some examples include biopsies, broken or cracked teeth that are showing signs of infection or are resulting in severe pain, and oral cancer treatments. However, before visiting a dentist for emergency treatment, a patient will need to be honest about whether he or she has been experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19. This often means a dentist may need to take extra precautions to carry out the emergency treatment while mitigating the risk of spreading the virus.
Should I Delay Treatments?
The decision to delay routine dental treatments should consider all the patient’s risk factors, as well as the rate of virus transmission in the patient’s local area. For example, those who are immunocompromised in an area with high rates of transmission may decide that putting off cleaning is the best course of action. Low-risk groups, on the other hand, could feel it’s more important to get routine cleanings if they also have a high genetic risk or a history of gingivitis. Consulting with a dentist and a primary care physician for guidance can help patients make the optimal choice.
Avoiding non-emergency dental care during the pandemic is not always necessary. In some cases, avoidance can be detrimental and carry long-term risks to a person’s oral health. For other patients with underlying conditions that increase the risks of severe reactions to the virus, avoiding the dentist’s office is advisable. Given that the CDC does not currently have any available data regarding the risk of COVID-19 transmission with the use of dental instruments, each individual will need to weigh the pros and cons according to his or her specific health status.