Expert Contribution

COVID-19 and Safety in the Dental Office

During this unprecedented time of pandemic and business closures, there is some good news: dental offices, as essential health care facilities, remain open. Your dental care is a critical part of staying healthy. 

Dental hygiene helps fight viruses! Healthy gums can better prepare you to fight off COVID-19, if you were to ever come into contact with the virus, because your body’s immune system is closely related to the health of your gums. Especially during a pandemic, the goal is to optimize your immune system; a healthy mouth allows your immune system to fight off other infections.

But is it safe to visit a dental office? Dental offices take all necessary precautions to allow you to visit them safely; some examples of best practices are:

Making sure that everyone entering the office is healthy by pre-screening them with a series of health questions, checking temperatures, and using hand sanitizer.

Avoiding cross-contamination between patients. In the dental office, all patients are socially distanced and congestion is avoided, with a one-way flow of movement. Non-patients may need to wait in the car or outside the office.

Reducing or eliminating any contaminants in the mouth before beginning any work. Patients are given a pre-procedural rinse to inactivate the bacteria in the mouth. 

Minimizing transmission by water droplets by minimizing use of equipment that creates aerosols and reducing the production of aerosols with specialized high-volume evacuation equipment.

Ensuring that the circulating air is cleaned by up-to-date filtration equipment.

Following all OSHA and CDC protocols for the sterilization of dental instruments and the disinfection of surfaces after every patient is treated.

Offering contact-free payment and scheduling options.

Are you more at risk now for dental problems? Many dental offices have reported seeing an increase in periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay over the past year. The reasons include fewer visits to the dental office during the initial pandemic shutdowns, and hesitation to go places outside the home. However, without regular checkups, a small painless problem can go undetected and turn into a larger problem. Seeing a dentist and/or dental hygienist can help you keep on top of things and catch any dental issues while they are hopefully still minor. 

Another reason that dental care has become more important than ever is the change in routine that has resulted in many more adults and children being home more. Home is where the meals and snacks are, so many people are finding that they or their children “graze” more, or eat more frequently. The frequency of food intake is a large part of the risk for tooth decay and unhealthy gums. An increase in attention to personal dental hygiene, as well as more frequent visits to the dentist, can help offset this new and increased risk.

Keep your whole body healthy! The whole-body benefits of keeping your teeth and gums healthy are well known. According to the Mayo Clinic, untreated periodontal (gum) disease is linked to other health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, preterm births, pneumonia, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It makes sense to stay on top of your dental health, especially during a pandemic. 

So, the bottom line is that your regular dental exams and hygiene appointments are an essential part of a plan to stay healthy during these unusual times. Be sure not to fall behind; your health is on the line!

By Brian J. Hockel, DDS, Life Dental & Orthodontics, Resident since 1964

About The Author

Brian J. Hockel, DDS
Life Dental & Orthodontics

Dr. Brian Hockel graduated from UCSF School of Dentistry in 1989 and has practiced dentistry for over 30 years next door to the Ygnacio Valley Library on Oak Grove Road. The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Hockel is active in several professional organizations. He combines his cosmetic, orthodontic, airway treatment and gnathology skills to bring about great changes in people’s smiles and health. 

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