7 Precautions You Must Take Before Going to the Dentist Amid Coronavirus
Follow these safety guidelines to visit the dentist and stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although virtual doctor's appointments may have been able to tide over some patients, there's only so much you do via telemedicine, and many people are eager to get into the dentist's office to resolve painful tooth problems. And even if you're not dealing with any pressing dental issues, with more and more states reopening, you may be considering the possibility of an in-person visit for a routine cleaning. But before you go to the dentist during the coronavirus pandemic, there are some important precautions you should take to help ensure that everyone stays healthy.
Pia Lieb, DDS, founder of Cosmetic Dentistry Center NYC, points out that those in "the dental field are the highest risk group due to the proximity to the respiration and saliva of the patient during a dental procedure." Since social distancing is far from possible in the dentist's chair, we've consulted dentists for a checklist of the seven most important precautions to take ahead of your appointment. And if you have an appointment with your general practitioner soon, make sure you know the 7 Precautions You Must Take Before Going to the Doctor Amid Coronavirus.
With many places now offering quick, accessible testing, you may be able to get tested for COVID-19 antibodies or the virus itself before going to your dentist's office. For some dentists, that could be an essential first step before allowing you to come in.
"I will require that all of my patients with upcoming appointments get tested for antibodies prior to any dental work," says Lieb. "A lot is still unknown, so testing is the best for both my practice and the safety of my patients." The results from the test will help inform you and your dentist on how to best proceed with everyone's health in mind.
Take your temperature.
Before your appointment, you should take your temperature to ensure you do not have a fever, a main symptom of coronavirus. At Lieb's practice, "the temperature will be taken of each patient, and then before they sit down, they will be asked to rinse their mouth with mouthwash." While many offices may have similar precautions in place, you should not assume your dentist's office will take your temperature for you, so be sure to do it at home. If you do have a fever, reschedule your appointment. And for other symptoms to be aware of, here are 6 New Coronavirus Symptoms the CDC Wants You to Know.
Ask your dentist's office questions.
Different offices will have different precautions in place, so calling before you show up to your appointment will help you be prepared for your dentist's specific protocols. Steven Spitz, DMD, says his office "will be asking patients to wait in their car, call or text the office to let them know they have arrived, and then the front desk will call the patient to let them know when their provider is ready to deliver them directly to their appointment." Spitz is also asking his patients to "wash hands, swish with hydrogen peroxide, answer questions, and take their temperature." Discussing the protocol your dentist is enforcing before you go in will make everything run more smoothly.
And be prepared to answer questions.
In addition to your general patient questionnaire form, many dentists' offices will be asking additional COVID-19 related questions. "Before our patients even come through the door, we're asking that they answer a few simple questions like 'Have you been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19?'; 'Have you been exhibiting any flu-like symptoms?'; and 'Do you have prior health concerns that make you high-risk for COVID-19?' This helps keep anyone who may have COVID-19 or anyone who's high-risk from coming into our office," says Bobbi Stanley, DDS. And for more changes to prepare for, check out these 5 Things You'll Never See at Your Doctor's Office After Coronavirus.
Step up your oral hygiene.
While coronavirus is still prevalent, you want to avoid doctor's offices if you can. Taking excellent care of your teeth will make it more likely that when you go to the dentist's office to resolve your current issue, they don't find any additional problems that would require you to return.
"Prevention during this time will be key. Brush and floss at least twice daily to keep bacterial levels down so that you don't develop infections like gum disease and cavities," says Catrise Austin, DDS. In addition to your normal routine, Austin says, "The new recommendation is to rinse your mouth with a mixture of 50 percent hydrogen peroxide and 50 percent water. This will reduce the viral load in your saliva." And for more oral care, discover 23 Things You're Doing That Would Horrify Your Dentist.
Put your phone in a plastic bag.
If your dentist's office has not implemented a wait-in-the-car protocol, Elizabeth Cranford Robinson, DMD, suggests patients "drop their phone into a plastic bag if they plan on using it at the dentist's office." We're always tempted to look at our phones while waiting, so even if you don't think you will use your phone, it's best to exercise extra caution and keep it in a plastic bag to avoid possible contamination. And for tips on disinfecting your phone, learn How Experts Say You Should Clean Your Phone to Stop Coronavirus Spread.
Bring your own pen and a credit card.
To respond to patient information forms, you'll need a pen, but it's best to bring your own from home to avoid touching a communal item. Robinson says patients should "take their own pen and ask the front desk to email receipts or treatment plans" to avoid any hand-to-hand contact. If you want to pay at the desk, bring a debit or credit card so you can easily sanitize it. Avoid dealing with money or unnecessary paperwork, as coronavirus can last on paper for up to four days.