Experiencing a pandemic can get the best of us, and some may be feeling fear or anxiety about what things will be like when the worst of it is over. But how we respond in a time of infectious outbreak can make us stronger together. This pandemic doesn’t have to have a lasting impact on our health and wellness. As your dental benefits provider, Hawaii Dental Service is here to ensure stability and continued care for your oral health.
With dental offices reopening and resuming elective and voluntary procedures and surgeries again, it’s time to evaluate if you’re due for a dental appointment. Returning to the dentist for preventive care can help us maintain our oral health, which in turn promotes our overall health.
If you were putting off dental work because of the virus, you’re not alone. But you should feel confident that your dentist is taking precautions to ensure the safety of both their patients and employees. After all, dentists have always been experts in disinfecting their work spaces and protecting their patients.
By understanding the measures dental offices are taking to prevent the spread of the virus, you can feel comfortable and safe at your next dentist visit.
Dental Office Guidelines for Hawaii Dentists
The Hawaii Dental Association sent notice that it was safe to return to work for dentists and dental care practitioners on May 1, 2020. Hawaii is one of a few states in the US that that does not have a mandate, or instruction for limited operations, on dentistry. Dentists are encouraged to return to work “in a manner consistent with state and local orders, adhering to public health guidelines, and in phases that are deemed safe, cautious, and methodical.”
So, what kind of changes and precautions will we see?
New Dental Office Measures and Procedures
Patients are welcome to call their dentist to better understand what the office’s individual policies on patient appointments and combating COVID-19 are. They may offer an appointment via teledentistry or have you come into the office depending on what step they are at in reopening.
Before grabbing the phone to call your dentist, review this list from the Centers for Disease Control. Ensure you’re not considered a vulnerable individual who should not be treated at this time. It’s recommended you wait on going back to the dentist if you:
- Recently returned from overseas travel
- Recently returned from states or areas considered hot spots for COVID-19 within the last 14 days
- Have a fever of 100.4°F or greater
- Have a cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms typical of COVID-19
- Had contact with a person known to be infected with COVID-19 within the previous 14 days
- Have a compromised immune systems or chronic disease
- Are aged 65 and older with other chronic systemic conditions
Guidance for Healthy Patients on Returning to the Dentist
Your next dental appointment and dental cleaning are likely to be a bit different than before the pandemic. When you visit the dentist, they will screen you for symptoms at the door, per CDC recommendations. Dental health professionals should also be screened before each and every shift, too. Studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms can play a role in spreading COVID-19. That’s why measures like temperature screenings should be implemented for everyone, regardless of symptoms.
You may be the only patient in the office during your appointment, but if not, the waiting room will have changes with social distancing in mind. All staff are required to wear a medical-grade face mask or face covering, depending on their role. Those in contact with the patient will also have a gown, gloves, and face shield.
Your dentist may ask you use an antimicrobial mouth rinse before your appointment begins. Rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash has been proven to significantly reduce the bacteria present in the mouth. You will most likely be asked to wear a mask and thoroughly wash your hands and face before coming in.
During your cleaning, dentists may avoid unnecessary use of aerosol tools like ultrasonic scalers because they can further spread those bacteria into the air. It’s important to take the steps outlined for us to minimize the spread of disease. View more information from the World Health Organization on how COVID-19 spreads.
Although there are many uncertainties in our lives today, oral health care doesn’t have to be one of them. If you or someone you love wants to return for a preventive dental care appointment, don’t hesitate to contact your dentist to see what their policies are.
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