What Does A Safe Dental Visit Look Like In The Time Of COVID?
Dentists list down cases when you must absolutely book an appointment right away.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic put our lives on hold, many of us have been delaying our dental visits for the fear of contracting the virus, as the risks include open-mouthed patients in an enclosed space, and dentists in close range poking instruments that were used on other patients into your mouth.
Dental clinics have resumed their operations when restrictions were relaxed in several cities, but how do we know if it is really safe? OneLife.ph spoke to Joan Andaya-Requelman, Donnabel Cunanan, and Flintwalter Bacoy, all Doctors of Dental Medicine, to discuss the health protocols in place to put your mind at ease for your next dentist visit.
What are the possible health risks when visiting the dentist in the time of COVID?
Since dental procedures require close contact and direct exposure to oral cavity, there can be risks for both the patient and the dentist.
According to Dr. Flintwalter, former president of the Caloocan Dental Chapter, “In a dental clinic, the COVID-19 virus can be acquired either directly or indirectly. The virus may circulate in the air for several minutes before it touches inanimate objects. If you touch the surfaces without sanitizing your skin, you may acquire the virus by rubbing your nose, mouth, or eyes after direct exposure.”
What are the protocols in place to reduce these risks?
The Philippine Dental Association (PDA) and the Department of Health (DOH) provide guidelines for dental clinics to follow when operating and performing dental procedures:
- Online consultations
Dr. Joan strictly requires patients to book preliminary online consultations prior to a dental visit so that to the clinic could assess and screen whether a patient really needs a physical appointment, or if a check-up can be done online instead.
- Foot mats and temperature check
Every dental clinic should have disinfecting mats and sanitizers or alcohol, and temperature check should be done before the patient is allowed to step inside the premises.
- Contact tracing forms
Before visiting the dentist, the patient must ensure that she is not experiencing any symptoms related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, such as fever, diarrhea, and colds, among others.
A health declaration form and contact tracing form must be filled out so the clinic could contact the patient if the need arises.
How do we know if we need an immediate dental appointment?
Dr. Donnabel says if you are experiencing swelling and chronic pain that cannot be remedied by medicines, you must immediately come in for a check-up.
Dr. Joan provides examples of these emergency cases:
- If you are experiencing severe dental pain
This may be caused by inflammation or a decayed tooth which may need extraction or require surgery if there is an infection.
- If there is bleeding
Especially if you recently had dental extractions or surgeries, you must consult your dentist if there is unusual or severe bleeding in your gums.
- If you are experiencing extreme headache and body pain
This can be related to dental problems and issues with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects your lower jaw to your skull. Cases like this will need immediate treatment.
- If you have loss of appetite
Loss of appetite may be caused by severe dental pain or a decayed tooth, and if left untreated, it may result to malnourishment or serious complications.
Which dental cases are not considered an emergency?
Dr. Donnabel says that denture replacements can be rescheduled if they are still functional.
Cosmetic dental procedures like a dental prosthesis, teeth whitening, and routine fluoride application are not urgent. If you would like schedule a check-up, you can opt for telemedicine services instead.
A safe dental visit
Dr. Donnabel says there is no such thing as “100% safe” during this difficult time. However, with safety protocols in place, risks of contracting the virus can be lessened, and you won’t need to delay your dental care any further.
Dr. Flintwalter emphasizes that a safe dental clinic should have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) not only for the dentist but for the patients too. Companions cannot stay inside the clinic, unless the patient is a minor, in which case one companion may be allowed.
Dr. Joan suggests that dental clinics invest in extraoral vacuum machines, which create negative pressure inside the dental operatory room, for aerosol dental procedures. An air exhaust system, air purifiers, gloves, and proper sterilization equipment may also help lower the risk of COVID infection.
It is definitely a must to take care of your dental health. However, before booking an appointment, check to make sure that the dental clinic you plan to visit is implementing proper health and safety precautions.
For more information, bookings, and appointments, you may reach Dr. Joan Andaya-Requelman through her Facebook page.