I thought I would write about going to the dentist in the era of COVID-19. I am of the opinion that going to your dentist is a safe thing to do.
I am not alone in this thought, as I have read in many journals that the dental office is one of the safest places to go during COVID-19.
I think you have to realize that your dental office has likely been one of the safest places to go well before the coronavirus was a thing. Dentists are, and have always been, accustomed to high levels of infection control in their offices. In fact, we have been using sterilizers and disinfectant sprays, as well as disposable barriers, for decades.
In fact, I did not have to change the disinfectant spray we have used all along — it is capable of killing COVID-19 just as it always was. Additionally, we have been sterilizing instruments we use in your mouth for decades.
The barriers we use are disposable and just make sense to use in certain circumstances. These, too, have been used for decades.
As you probably know, COVID-19 had us concerned with the aerosol that is created during certain dental procedures. Your hygiene appointment is one of those procedures. We have stopped the use of the ultrasonic (Cavitron) instrument used to remove calculus or tartar more easily than had scaling.
We have also stopped the use of the air polisher we used to remove stubborn stain during a hygiene appointment. These suggestions were made by the American Dental Association (ADA), so I would expect all dentists have followed suit regarding the recommendations.
We are still using the rubber cup to polish, while using prophy paste in order to remove stain. This is the old-fashioned way of doing things; however, it works very well and does not generate an aerosol.
You will likely see your dentist, dental assistant and dental hygienist wear a gown and face shield, in addition to their normal surgical mask and gloves now. In fact, the surgical mask they are now using has more filtration to prohibit COVID-19 and aerosols from penetrating it.
This will likely become the new norm for dental offices. I would expect to see the reception area rearranged to ensure social distancing. You will also likely see some sort of plastic barrier between you and the reception staff now. I think all of this will also be the new norm for the future.
You may also be asked to wait in your car until your appointed time to avoid passing another patient in the hallways of the office. Just in case that doesn’t happen, your dental office will likely ask you to wear a face covering while in the office. This is being done to help protect everyone in the office from accidental transmission of the virus.
You will likely find that your office is scheduling differently now, as well. They need that extra time to disinfect their rooms and allow time for the air to be filtered in the treatment rooms.
Lastly, you will likely see some sort of air filtration in the rooms where you have your dental care provided. Some offices may extend this to some of the common areas, as we have. The point of this is to capture any airborne pathogen in the room where it was generated. This, too, will be a new norm.
Dentists, by nature, are very precise people. We work in a small area where tenths of millimeters mean a lot. We have always taken infection control seriously. I can honestly say that since I’ve been in practice (31 years) it has always been in the forefront of what we do.
The only thing dentists needed to do to meet the needs of this pandemic was listen to the ADA and CDC for their recommendations. Most, if not all, dentists want to conform to the new suggestions — the hardest thing we are faced with was availability of some of the necessary PPE (personal protective equipment).
Thank God for the time we had out of the office, by order of the governor, for it was during that time that all of us geared up to see our patients in the safest environment possible.
If you have any concerns, just be sure that your dentist or the dentist you are considering going to, have made the aforementioned items their new norm. I hope this has helped put some of you at ease with your future visits to the dentist.
Dr. Frank Vascimini is a dentist practicing in Homosassa. Send your questions to 4805 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446 or email them to him at DrVascimini@MasterpieceDentalStudio.com.