Is it safe to go to the dentist during coronavirus crisis? New guidelines give dentists 'yellow light' to see patients

New guidelines have been put in place to allow dentists to safely treat patients who have been forced to delay needed care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Friday, May 15, 2020
New safeguards help make dental visits worry-free during Covid-19
Is it safe to go to the dentist right now? New guidelines have been put in place to allow dentists to safely treat patients who have been forced to delay needed care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

GLENDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- Like every small business, dentists have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. But with new guidelines issued just days ago, dentists can start seeing routine patients again, with several solutions in place to help make your next checkup safe. These protocols include a temperature check, mandatory hand sanitizer and a checklist of health questions.

These safeguards are just some of the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their release gave dentists and other dental specialists in California the "yellow light" to see patients who have been forced to delay much needed care.

The fear of contracting COVID-19 is not only on the minds of patients, but very much a concern for dentists and their staff.

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"Anything that we can do in our practices right now to reduce the aerosol levels, that's our goal," said Dr. David Downs, president of the Western Los Angeles Dental Society.

Downs says minimizing exposure to coronavirus droplets is foremost on their minds. Besides wearing masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, and booties, and requiring patients to wear masks until they sit, they use a powerful suction device to absorb aerosols during procedures. They also purchased extra air purifiers for the office.

"It has a HEPA filter and it has carbon and other filters but most importantly, it has a UVC light and what that does it kills viruses so this will recirculate the air in this area multiple times an hour," said office manager Cheryl Downs.

Another thing you'll notice is empty waiting rooms. Dentists are asking patients to wait in their cars until it's time for their appointments.

"We advise them as they approach our facility to give us a call when they're five minutes out," said Dr. Downs. "We instruct them to wait in the parking lot until we go ahead and call them make sure that the office and distancing is appropriate."

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And prior to the office visit, a tele-dentistry consultation to make sure the appointment is necessary. Each step in place for the safety of everyone involved.

Still, some patients may still be asking the big question: "Is it safe to see a dentist right now?"

"Very much so. Dentistry has always been at the forefront of infection control," said Dr. Richard Nagy, president of the California Dental Association.

But Dr. Nagy is concerned by the shortage of surgical N-95 masks. Dentists are having a difficult time getting them.

"The CDA'S been advocating with the Governor's office directly for dentists who are the frontline oral health workers that we've been pretty much allowing the front line medical workers to treat the Covid patients, now it's time to treat the dental needs," said Dr. Nagy.

Looking for more information? You can find COVID-19 help, information and resources here.