Visiting the Dentist in the Time of COVID-19
Oral health is incredibly important, especially as we age. Tooth decay is more common in people over 65 than children, in part because of medications, wear and tear, possible lack of mobility and health conditions. October is Dental Hygiene Month, and we wanted to look at what oral health looks like in the time of COVID-19. How do you take care of yourself, and how are dentists keeping you safe?
Poor oral health can worsen almost any other medical problem you are having, so it’s essential to look after your teeth. Because high amounts of sugar can impact your teeth, it’s not surprising the month with Halloween was selected to be Dental Hygiene Month!
“With COVID and the virus, if you’re immune-compromised, if you have an infection somewhere in your system, and your body has some other factor that it is trying to fight, it makes it [that much] harder to kick the virus,” said Dr. Kevin McMahon of Edgewood Dental Care. So keeping your gums and mouth clean of infections can protect you from catching COVID-19 and help your body fight it if you are infected.
So, what do you do if you’re having a problem? The good news is that dentists are prepared to see you just like any other doctor’s office. Masks prevent you from spreading the virus; they aren’t as effective at stopping you from catching it. Back in May, the blog for our sister supplement Glucocil explained masks like a towel and the virus like a hose. If a hose sprays you and you’re wearing a towel — you’ll get wet. That’s what happens if someone coughs on you if you’re wearing a mask. If you put a towel over the opening of the hose, the water won’t go far. The towel will absorb a lot of it, and the person will stay dry. That’s what happens if the person who coughs is wearing a mask. When you go to a dentist, you take off your mask — they keep theirs on; you stay safe. The dentist is the one at risk. But, despite being one of the highest-risks professions, less than one percent of dentists have COVID-19. They are taking safety very seriously!
One of our team members had to go to the dentist this week. She wanted to share her experience to put people at ease.
Our team member was just as hesitant as everyone else: she had to take off her mask with some leaning over her mouth? That didn’t sound safe. But, several of her bottom teeth hurt so badly it couldn’t be ignored. She called the dentist but was told that it wasn’t quite business as usual. The dentist emailed her the standard paperwork. They no longer had a waiting room. Instead, she filled out her paperwork online. When she arrived, she called the office from the parking lot to say she was outside. A receptionist came to the door to take her temperature. She was immediately shown into the exam room. Even though she hadn’t been to the dentist before, they didn’t shake hands.
Everyone inside was wearing N95 masks and face shields, like ER doctors. She felt very safe seeing them. There was no way she could cough on them, or they could cough on her. They also changed gloves frequently. They took x-rays, did an exam and suggested doing a cleaning to make repairing the teeth in her next visit easier. It felt so safe that she decided it was a good course of action and went ahead with the cleaning. The cleaning took the usual amount of time, and they had a normal conversation. But the dental hygienist was wearing a face shield and an N95 mask.
All in all, it was fine. Our team member walked away feeling that she hadn’t been at risk. Right now, every time you step outside, you’re weighing your options and what feels safest to you, what is worth it, what isn’t. Dental health is far too important to delay. Call your dentist, find out what steps they are taking. If they aren’t taking enough precautions to make you feel safe, Google other dentists in your area or call your friends. The important thing is to stay safe and be healthy.
Banner image: Atikah Akhtar via Unsplash