Is Visiting the Dentist Safe Right Now, During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Many people are rightfully concerned about COVID-19. Dentist offices were temporarily closed for non-emergency appointments, but many, like our office, are now open again.
For those who are concerned about the safety of visiting the dentist, there are a few things you should know...
Dentistry has always had a focus on infection control, adhering to strict guidelines for keeping both the office environment clean and tools sterile in order to prevent disease transmission. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, these measures have been enhanced.
We are committed to providing a safe environment for all patients and our dental team. To accomplish this, we are following (and in many ways exceeding) guidelines for dental offices from the American Dental Association and the Ohio State Dental Board. These include:
- Pre-screening all patients for illness prior to appointments
- Lengthening appointments for additional cleaning measures and infection control
- Staggering appointments to minimize patient-to-patient contact
- Utilizing pre-procedural mouth rinses
- Minimizing aerosols through the use of barriers and evacuation equipment
- Wearing additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for the safety of all patients and staff
These new safety protocols may make your next dental appointment feel a bit different, but behind the Plexiglas screens, under the face shields and additional masks, are the same great dental professionals who are here to serve you.
To go along with our in-office infection control procedures, please consider the following:
- We ask that all patients come to their appointments by themselves (unless a parent/guardian, caregiver, or interpreter is needed).
- Please do not take any fever-reducing over-the-counter medications the day of your appointment, unless medically necessary. We will be screening every patient's temperature before they go back to a treatment room.
- Please arrive on time to your appointment. If you arrive early (which we love!) please call us from your vehicle to see if we are ready for you. If we can see you early we will, or we may have you wait in your vehicle until your appointed time.
- If you have a copayment for an upcoming appointment, we will call you ahead of your appointment to collect your patient portion. This is to minimize interaction in the office.
- Again, we ask that you wear a mask or facial covering when you enter the office.
It is important to delay any non-emergency dental treatments if you are displaying signs of illness. If any symptoms develop before the time of your appointment, please call us and let us know.
Here are some of the symptoms of COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Vomiting or nausea
If you believe you may have these symptoms, you should contact your primary care practitioner and let them know. Follow their instructions to best care for yourself and prevent spreading it to others.
As there is no vaccine for COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2, avoiding exposure to the virus is the only real defense currently available.
How does the virus spread from person to person?
COVID-19 transmission tends to happen person-to-person. This usually occurs through respiratory droplets from talking, coughing, or sneezing in close contact (within six feet) of the other person. These respiratory particles can enter through the nose, mouth, or eyes, and may infect the lungs directly when inhaled.
It is important to know that a person does not need to have symptoms in order to be contagious.
The novel coronavirus can also be caught from touching surfaces where respiratory droplets have landed.
How can I protect myself against COVID-19?
The best ways to prevent exposure to the COVID-19 virus are:
- Use proper social distancing. Maintain a distance of six feet (6') from others while in public spaces.
- You should wash your hands frequently. Ensure you are doing so with the correct technique.
- If soap is not available, use a hand sanitizer containing a minimum of sixty percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have washed your hands prior.
- Be sure to a mask or cloth covering when around others in public.
- Always cover your mouth whenever you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands right afterward.
- Surfaces of your home should be cleaned and disinfected often.
Which people are most at risk from COVID-19?
Though COVID-19 infection may result in dangerous complications for anyone, the ones who are at the most risk are people who are over sixty-five years old as well as those who have preexisting medical conditions, like those listed below:
- Asthma or lung disease
- People who are immunocompromised
- Heart disease
- Severe obesity
- Disease of the liver
- Kidney disease
If I think I have COVID-19, what should I do?
With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, there are those who want to stay home as much as they can and are avoiding any appointments they think may not be necessary. In light of that, is it a good idea to delay dental visits because of the risk of getting COVID-19?
The opposite may, in fact, be true, according to a paper recently published in the British Dental Journal.
Dentists have long known about the way that oral health is connected to the health of the body.
In the paper by Victoria Sampson, she looks into how many of the virus' more serious complications may be connected to bacteria from the mouth.
What serious complications are connected with COVID-19?
These complications are:
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Blood clots
- Septic shock
The complications of COVID-19 are more likely to result in death than the virus itself. COVID-19 is a virus, but most of these complications are actually due to bacterial infection. Studies are revealing that eighty percent of ICU patients have elevated levels of harmful bacteria, requiring treatment with antibiotics. Where the severity of COVID-19 infections is concerned, the results of these studies indicate that bacteria play a large part.
In what ways is oral health linked to these complications?
The bacteria in our mouths have a good chance of making their way to the respiratory tract. The same kinds of bacteria found in periodontitis may cause or worsen health conditions like pneumonia and sepsis.
This connection is where the need for oral health and hygiene comes in. The movement of harmful kinds of bacteria between the lungs and mouth can be lessened through taking proper care of your mouth. There studies that have revealed that improved oral health can lower the risk of ventilator-associated pneumonia in patients in the ICU and help prevent the risk of bacterial superinfection.
Don't stop visiting the dentist!
While it may be scary to visit the dentist during COVID-19, now is the right time to ensure that you are in the best oral health possible. A healthy mouth is good for your overall health and can lower your risk of COVID-19 complications.
Whether you have a dental issue you would like checked out, or you're overdue for a visit, contact us to schedule your next appointment with Dr. Sato.
Patients concerned about visiting the dentist during the pandemic may find some reassurance in learning that the ADA has found that fewer than 1% of dentists have tested positive for COVID-19.
In the first large-scale collection of infection rates and infection control practices in the US, the ADA Science and Research Institute and Health Policy Institute in Chicago found that the methods recommended by the CDC and the ADA to keep patients and dental teams safe are working.
This data was collected from every state in the USA as well as Puerto Rico, and the ongoing survey is now working with the American Dental Hygienists Association to include dental hygienists in future updates.
In addition to ADA and CDC recommendations, most dental offices are going above and beyond when it comes to PPE, screening procedures, sterilization, and minimizing aerosols. Thanks to this dedication to safety, the ADA states that the rate of infection for dentists are far below those for other medical professionals.
The vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute, Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., stated: “The profession has taken this issue extremely seriously, and it shows. We will continue to track the rate of COVID-19 among dentists and other facets of the pandemic affecting dentistry so it can help inform the dental profession and other industries as well.”
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a concern all of us share, but, fortunately, with the safety protocols currently in place, patients should feel safer at dental visits than most other activities they may take during the pandemic.
The pandemic has resulted in a stressful time for everyone in the world, and, for many people, this stress can result in orofacial pain.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine took a look at patients in two countries and examined how the stress of COVID-19 lockdowns may have caused an increase in jaw-clenching, teeth-grinding, and orofacial pain.
Some of the findings from the study by the University of Wroclaw and Tel Aviv University were:
- 12% increase in orofacial pain symptoms
- 15% increase in jaw-clenching
- 26% increase in teeth grinding
- For those who were already suffering from orofacial pain, there was a 15% increase in severity
- Women were more affected by these increases than men
- Patients in the age range of 35-55 were the most affected
Whether due to concerns over the virus, financial issues, isolation during quarantine, or other situations resulting from the lockdowns, it's evident that problems such as bruxism (teeth grinding) and temporomandibular disorders are increasing during these stressful times.
For those suffering from these issues—including head, neck, and jaw pain, tension headaches, earaches, tooth sensitivity in the absence of a dental problem—help is available. Depending on the specific nature of the problem, these can be relieved with night guards, bite splints, or bite adjustments.
If you believe you are one of the people suffering from pain as a result of this type of stress, get in touch with our office to take your first step toward finding relief.
As of November of 2020, there have been more than 56 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide. While 39 million of those have recovered, the virus has claimed the lives of over 1.3 million people, with many cases still active.
While an outbreak of this size and severity is a new experience for most of us, it is hardly unique. Many such outbreaks have happened throughout history, and without the benefit of modern medicine, they have resulted in far higher death tolls than COVID-19.
To put it in perspective, here are some of the outbreaks that past generations have gone through.
There are records of what is believed to have been Smallpox as far back as 300 BC in ancient Egypt. The disease is believed to have killed three out of every ten people who contracted it, and it has persisted all the way to the modern era. It wasn't until 1980 that vaccination efforts managed to eradicate the virus worldwide.
Known as the Black Death, the Bubonic plague first appeared in Europe and Asia in the mid-1330s and continued on until the early 1350s. The US had an epidemic in Los Angeles as recently as 1924. While antibiotics are available to treat the disease when caught early, the disease is still present, with around 1,000-3,000 cases annually around the world. The bubonic plague is believed to have killed more than 20 million people in Europe alone.
Believed to have been around since the 4th century BC, the first known Cholera pandemic began in India in 1817, with a second occurring in 1829. This second outbreak became a pandemic, spreading through Europe, and North America. There were multiple Cholera pandemics between the years of 1852 and 1923, and outbreaks continue even today, with approximately 2.9 million cases and 95,000 deaths annually across the world. The spread of Cholera can be prevented with proper sanitation and clean drinking water.
The Spanish Flu
Caused a type of H1N1 flu virus, the Spanish Flu was first identified in the US in 1918. The spread of the virus was likely expedited by troop movements during World War I, with the virus infecting 500 million people across the world. More than 50 million people died from this variant of the flu. The pandemic was eventually stopped through quarantine, disinfectants, and improvements in personal hygiene.
Spread by a parasite carried by mosquitos, Malaria has likely existed since the Stone Age and is still around today. Most cases are now in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, as a program started by the World Health Organization in 1955 helped to eliminate the disease in many parts of the world. Currently, there are about 2,000 cases of Malaria diagnosed in the world annually.
Fortunately for us, research on COVID-19 has progressed quickly and promising vaccines are already in development. In the meantime, practices like ours are using modern medical knowledge to help prevent the spread of infection through safety protocols that keep both our dental team and our patients safe.