Slowly, very slowly, we are emerging from our homes as COVID-19 stay-home orders lift. But as you’ve probably noticed, many things look different now. This includes your next dental visit. As we all learn to manage physical distancing guidelines, you will see changes to the way you sign in, wait in the waiting room, and attend your appointment.
The American Dental Association prepared dentists with plenty of guidance on how to safely re-open. Different dental offices might use different tactics, but please know these tactics are employed with the safety of patients, staff, dentists and the general public in mind.
Here are some changes you might see at your next visit.
Longer Wait Times for an Appointment
Offices are backlogged after being closed for several months, so you may have to wait longer before you get your appointment. In addition, your dentist might offer less appointment choices each day to allow for social distancing and extra disinfection between patients.
A New Type of Waiting Room
Waiting rooms are cramped quarters, so you’ll see lots of changes here. Some offices bypass this altogether in favor of virtual waiting rooms. This involves checking in via text or an app, then waiting outside until appointment time.
Changes to the physical space could include chairs placed further apart and an absence of magazines, toys and shared items. Your office might ask that you use hand sanitizer and wear a mask when you enter. Also, don’t be surprised to see front office staff using protective gear like masks, goggles and face shields.
Changes During Your Appointment
Dentists are used to managing infection control on a daily basis, even in normal times. But most dentists will add extra precautions as they reopen. For example, your dentist and hygienist will probably wear protective gear from the minute they enter the room. The gear might also be more intensive, including things like face shields, goggles and gowns.
You might notice new protective equipment in and around the exam chair, and your dentist and hygienist could approach routine procedures in a different way. There could also be less staff present in the exam room.
Leaving Extra People at Home
To minimize the number of people in the office, you will probably be asked not to bring extra people to your appointment. If the appointment is for your child, plan to have only one guardian attend. Parents of older children might even be asked to wait outside the exam room. But rest assured, as a parent or guardian you can request a phone consultation to get important information.
Don’t Wait to Schedule Your Next Appointment
Change is hard on everyone, including your dentist and office staff. So please be patient and know we are all doing the best we can.
And above all, please don’t let these changes stop you from scheduling your next appointment. Your teeth are important, and those teeth will be with you long after COVID-19 has passed.
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