Many dentists’ offices are open now, which is great news if something in your mouth has been bugging you since mid-March or if you know you need dental work done. But that doesn’t mean it’s time for business as usual if all you need is a cleaning. Dentists are especially at risk of contracting COVID-19 from patients, and so it may be best to put off non-urgent visits a while longer.
The World Health Organization recently issued guidance on oral care, which includes a recommendation that “non-essential oral health care—which usually includes oral health check-ups, dental cleanings and preventive care—be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates…”
As they point out, dentists and hygienists deal directly with people’s bodily fluids, and their tools often generate aerosol droplets. The biggest risk in going to the dentist is that you may infect them, rather than the other way around. But that said, if your dentist is at risk for catching COVID, then there’s also a non-zero chance that they could pass it on to patients.
This doesn’t mean you have to skip appointments; that’s still a judgment call. Preventive care now may make you healthier in the long run. And with COVID-19 far from under control in much of the U.S., it’s quite possible dentist appointments will become less safe if cases increase again.
That said, most of us can safely skip a dentist appointment or two, depending on the specifics of our oral health. If you feel comfortable delaying or foregoing the next appointment on your calendar, that may be the safest option right now.
If you do decide to go, the ADA and CDC have prepared a list of recommendations for providers to keep themselves and their patients safe. Your dentist might choose hand tools instead of ultrasonic ones, for example, and there are likely to be new procedures for checking in—so call ahead.