Everyone in the world is presently worried about the spread of dangerous Coronavirus (SARS–COV-2), the virus responsible for COVID-19 disease. Nowadays, all are keen on searching, reading, and spreading the information about its prevention and control measures. Because of this pandemic, everyone's lifestyle has been changed and all are getting adapted to new challenges. But, how to plan the dental visits during this pandemic? This article discusses things to take into consideration when planning for a dental appointment during this uncertain time.
What Are the Risks of Transmission?
SARS-CoV-2 virus spread occurs primarily with respiratory droplets between people less than six feet of distance. It is mainly spread through respiratory droplets of an infected person when he coughs, sneezes or talks. The virus persists in aerosols and droplets for hours. When studied under laboratory conditions, the virus remains on certain surfaces for hours to days. But when there is a distance of more than six feet between individuals, it is less likely to spread. COVID-19 can even be spread by individuals not showing any symptoms. This pandemic has changed the way to access healthcare facilities, and so there is no exception for dental care.
Why Are Dental Procedures Risky?
Dentistry is a highly collaborative field that involves close contact with patients, and so the risk of spreading infection is high. As we have seen, the main mode of spread of infection is via respiratory droplets, which made all dentistry segments reconsider infection control protocols.
Most dental procedures involve the use of rotary instruments, such as handpieces, ultrasonic scalers, water sprays or syringes, or three-way syringes that are used for air and water spray. Aerosols that spread in the dental office can contain droplets of water, saliva, debris, blood, and microorganisms too.
Not during this pandemic, but in routine practice also, dental surgeons are trained to use a surgical mask while doing dental procedures to prevent cross-infection. Surgical masks provide protection of mouth and nose against inhalation of infectious agents through splatter.
However, complete protection against infectious SARS-COV-2 transmission has not been tested and is not guaranteed. There are certain guidelines for the healthcare system to work during this pandemic, and with that, dental clinics are allowed to reopen. But there is a big question among people that should one rush for an appointment? Or should they wait a bit longer for treatment to get done? So everything about dental visits during these pandemic times are discussed below.
Is it Safe to Visit a Dental Clinic During This Pandemic?
Even before the pandemic, it was necessary for dental clinics to maintain strict sterilization and hygiene protocols. The standard protocol for the dental care team is to wear gloves, a surgical mask, and protective eye wears. This prevents cross-infection among dental care professionals and patients. Dental services have to look after either of things, one is to provide essential services, and the other is to take risk factors to a minimal level for patients as well as for associated dental care staff. Because of this pandemic, few more protocols got included in previous protocols for dental care professionals. Many of them are given by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. So, it is safe to visit a dental clinic without fear but with necessary precautions.
When Is It Necessary To Meet a Dentist?
When there is a dental emergency, it is important to visit the dentist as soon as possible. So, the following are the dental emergencies:
- Trauma or an injury from an accident.
- Severe toothache.
- Swelling in cheeks or gums.
- Abscess in gums or infection in gums.
- Bleeding in a gum that is not getting stopped.
- Pain or continuous irritation from any broken orthodontic appliance or any prosthesis.
In What Cases Is It Not an Emergency To Meet the Dentist?
Following are a few treatments that are not emergencies and hence can be addressed at later appointments –
- Routine dental checkups.
- Cleaning of teeth.
- Whitening of teeth.
- Mild sensitivity of teeth.
- Minor problems such as halitosis, and so on.
But it is always advisable to contact the dentist on the telephone and discuss one's dental problem and let the dentist take a call whether to visit or not for the specific case. Everyone has got adapted to a new lifestyle due to the pandemic, and this paved way for the implementation of teledentistry and triage protocol on a priority basis.
What Are Teledentistry and Triage Protocols?
One should emphasize on prior dental appointments, cash-less payment, and prior telephonic consultation with the dentist about thepresent problem. It is advised for a dental professional to do telephone triage for all the dental patients. So as to access all the patient's dental condition and after that determine and arrange an appointment for particular patients requiring urgent treatment. Every patient should be contacted prior to appointments so as to discuss dental problems, and simultaneously patients should be screened on the telephone for any symptoms associated with coronavirus infection.
Other information like medical history, travel history should be taken from patients. With prior dental appointment waiting period for the patient gets reduced. As because the pandemic preparatory time for dental setting is increased between the appointments, a prior appointment will reduce waiting time. If patients have any related symptoms, then non-emergency dental procedures should be postponed, and advice related to the dental problem is given on the telephone for the possible COVID-19 patient. If it is possible, then one should postpone elective dental treatment till complete cure and until the isolation or quarantine period of the patient.
What Is the Patient's Role During Dental Visits?
What Protocols Should Be Followed By the Dental Healthcare Professionals?
- Dental healthcare professionals should make sure that everyone in the dental premises should follow hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough, sneeze etiquette.
- Instructions should be displayed in appropriate language at the entrance and waiting premises.
- Patient and visitor should avoid touching lift buttons, door handles and frequently touched surfaces, etc.
- The dental clinic should have glass or plastic barriers in the reception and consultation area.
- The dentist will be using PPE that includes a head cap, face mask, face shield, and full-body gowns. Disposable things and PPE will be changed after every patient.
What Protocols Have To Be Followed at Home?
During this critical period, prevention is way better than cure, and so following are things that should be followed by the patient at home during this critical time:
- Brush your teeth twice daily.
- Avoid eating sticky food.
- Use fluoridated toothpaste.
- Drink plenty of water which helps to keep your oral cavity clean.
- Do not leave your mouth dry. Rinse your mouth after eating to prevent caries.
With the intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone across the world is hesitant to step outside their homes. This poses difficulty for one to consult a dentist for their dental issues especially if one suffers from severe toothache. To have a safe dental treatment, one must cooperate with their dentist and schedule an appointment in advance so that the waiting time can be avoided. Other strategies to ensure a safe dental sitting should be followed as mentioned above. Since prevention is better than cure, one must follow the preventive measures mentioned above to avoid developing any serious dental issues. With teleconsultation being extremely beneficial during this pandemic, one can also consult a dentist online for their dental issues.
Frequently Asked Questions