Afraid to go back to the dentist during COVID-19? Check out what measures dentists are taking to ensure patient safety while practices begin to open back up in 2020.
As more businesses get the green light to open again, many of us are feeling unsure of what our new reality is going to look like post-COVID-19 shutdown. Going to dentist during COVID-19 may be daunting. Many dental offices in North America were closed for appointments aside from dental emergencies during COVID-19. Now, dental offices around the country are getting ready to open again for regular appointments.
With all the uncertainty of our new reality, many patients are wondering if it’s safe to go to the dentist before they make a dental appointment. If you ask a dentist if it’s safe to go to the dentist, they’ll shout “DO NOT BE AFRAID!” with a big, perfect smile. Dentists have been, and are doing, a ton to ensure patient safety. Many dental offices are open for emergency care and already practicing special safety measures, while others are gearing up to open full-time and following new protocol.
Here are some of the things dentists are doing to ensure your safety during COVID-19:
1. Offering an extremely sanitized space
The great news is, dentistry sterilization measures have already been in practice for years. You’ve likely already noticed that your dental office was squeaky clean before COVID-19. Dental offices have always been serious about dental sterilization protocol, and now with COVID-19, they’re even more stringent with making sure everything in the office is sanitized.
Dental offices have pre-existing, rigorous infection control protocols and now have even more protocols in place to keep you safe. Many offices even have a dedicated infection control officer on staff whose job is to make sure everyone is following the right steps to keep the office clean and safe for everyone.
2. Dental employees have receive special infection control training
Dentists in Ontario already follow a strict infection control protocol. In Canada, for example, this protocol is outlined by a committee called PIDAC (Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee). One of the things PIDAC does is advise public health Ontario on matters related to patient safety and infection control and provide a best practices document that ensures patient safety.
Dentists, hygienists, and all employees working with patients receive detailed training because dental procedures are thorough and have extremely high sterilization standards. On top of that, all dental office management employees have also been receiving extra training to manage the office to prevent COVID-19. This ensures all patient spaces are safe from the waiting area and front desk, to the washrooms and the front doors.
3. Dental instruments are sterilized thoroughly
Again, sterilization is nothing new to dentists. Patients can trust that all dental instruments are clean, since dental offices already do practice strict sterilization of dental instruments protocols for cleaning dental tools. One example is cleaning instruments and tools. In this case, everything will be put in a bag to sterilize dental kits and instruments. These bags are treated at 100 degrees Celsius under steam pressure for a prolonged amount of time. This treatment evaporates bacteria and viruses, including the one that causes COVID-19. The instruments are then marked, time stamped, and recorded so that quality control checks can take place. The instruments are not opened until a patient walks into the room.
After you leave the room, and before the next patient arrives, the room will be cleaned from top to bottom using the proper virus and bacteria killing disinfectants.
4. COVID-19 specific screening and prevention measures
Dental offices are also taking new COVID-10 specific measures to ensure the safety of patients. You will likely notice increased screening for dentist appointments and temperature taking before patients arrive to make sure no one comes into the office with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. There may be things like plexiglass barriers at the front desk and operative rooms may even be sealed with plastic doors to prevent any spread of germs.
Lastly, some dental procedures might look different. For example, your hygienist will likely only do hand scaling rather than use a cavitron which vibrates to physically break off plaque so there’s less potential spray occurring from the mouth.
5. Use of personal protection equipment
You will notice increased personal protection equipment when you go to the dentist. This ensures your safety, as well as theirs. Things like face shields, gowns, and N95 masks which have a superior seal compared to regular surgical masks will likely be the norm. As more research is done with how the virus spreads, your dentist is keeping up-to-date with what to wear and precautions to take to keep patients safe while still delivering safe and much needed dental care.
Patients may also be given masks when they walk in, be offered sanitizer before their appointment, and likely a mouth rinse with hydrogen peroxide. Going to the dentist during COVID-19 should not be something to stress about.
Don’t be afraid to go to the dentist!
Dental care is essential for your oral and overall health, so don’t shy away from getting back into the dentist chair once practices fully reopen. If you’re wondering how to schedule a dentist appointment, or what your dentist is doing to ensure your safety – just call them! Ask questions and engage if you’re feeling unsure. Dentists are experts in infection control and they’ve been doing it for a long time. All of our Opencare dentists would be happy to answer any questions you may have.