IS IT SAFE TO VISIT YOUR DENTIST OR HYGIENIST DURING OUR CURRENT COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
This is a question being asked by most of our patients and the general population. The simple answer is yes, for the majority of the population, but we must revisit some facts about the virus and it’s disease, transmission, symptoms, and rumors prior to understanding why the dental office is indeed a safe environment.
Covid-19 illness is caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV or SARS-CoV-2). There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. Covid-19 is a new disease caused by this new coronavirus. Covid-19 can present itself with mild to severe respiratory symptoms. Many of it’s complications are believed to be caused by what is called a cytokine storm, an infection that triggers your immune system to flood your bloodstream with inflammatory proteins called cytokines. If there are underlying medical conditions which have already weakened an immune system, there is a greater chance for moderate to severe symptoms.
This virus spreads mainly through person to person contact. Most of the time, it spreads when a sick person sneezes or coughs. Droplets can spray up to 6 feet away. Breathing in or swallowing these droplets can allow the virus to enter your body. Studies have shown that the virus can survive on various types of surfaces for various amounts of time, but the primary form of transmission has been determined to be from person-to-person.
Symptoms are typically listed from most common to least as follows: fever, fatigue, cough, lack of appetite, body aches, shortness of breath, and mucus or phlegm. Symptoms can show up in as few as 2 days or 14 days. Even though it has been found that asymptomatic transmission may occur, it has only been attributed to a limited amount of transmission and is generally substantially less then transmission by individuals with symptoms.
Some rumors about Covid-19 must also be debunked to fully understand the disease. A pandemic elicits fear, uncertainty, stress, and valid concerns. Some of the most common misleading or false facts are as follows: 1) The disease affects different races or ethnicity differently. This is absolutely not true, it can be transmitted to all people equally and symptoms are correlated with the individuals current health. 2) Only older population is at risk. This is also not true as people of any age with underlying conditions may be at higher risk. 3) The risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 is high. False. Statistics show that, for most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus is low.
So, what are dental offices doing to protect themselves and their patients and what can the general population do to help stop the spread and infection? The American Dental Association and the Florida Dental Association have issued protocols that are followed by all licensed dental practices to ensure the minimum amount of risk for our patients. These protocols include OSHA and CDC protective personal equipment guidelines, pre-appointment verbal and physical screenings (patient and staff temperature checks and physical assessments), social distancing in receptions areas and offering car side check-ins, complete wipe downs of all exposed surfaces, continuation of strict sterilization of instruments and operatories between patients, and constant hand sanitation by all patients and employees. Dental offices have always been strictly regulated by governing bodies to provide a safe environment for patients by the CDC, OSHA, and the ADA/FDA. These requirements are welcomed by dental offices for the protection of patients, doctors, hygienists, assistants, and staff.
After understanding Covid-19 and the prevention methods in dentist offices more thoroughly, it is clear that a visit to your dental office is safe. When patients, staff and doctors are screened, and all necessary protocols are met by the individual dental practices, a dental office can provide treatment safely. I would encourage all patients to ask their dental practices if they are following these guidelines. I would also encourage all patients to be mindful of the importance of social distancing, proper hygiene/hand washing, minimizing touching their faces, and staying home if they feel ill. Working together with your dental practice will assure a safe environment.
Max Forni, DMD