Dental office safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID and Dental Office Safety

December 4, 2020

As Washington begins to tighten restrictions in the wake of the surge of COVID-19 cases, you’re likely wondering what that means for dental visits.

On Wednesday, November 25th, Governor Inslee released updated guidance for dental and medical offices that restricts non-urgent care unless certain safety parameters are met. This guidance is not new; it is simply an update to a proclamation that was issued in May.

In a statement released on the 25th, the Washington State Dental Association (WSDA) explains that the revised guidance does not prohibit preventative dental care like cleanings and fillings but rather, seeks to “empower health care providers to self-regulate capacity for care based upon parameters outlined in the proclamation.”

In other words, it’s up to dentists and their office staff to determine their ability to provide standard care for patients given the health and safety guidelines the Governor and the Washington Department of Health require.

Okay, so now that we’ve cleared that up, what does that mean for the safety of dental offices? What is your chance of exposure if you go in for a routine checkup versus waiting for an emergency?

Well, to date, according to the CDC, there has been no documented transmission of COVID-19 in a clinical dental setting.

Additionally, in an October 15th study released by The Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers found that of the 2,195 dentist surveyed across the country (all 50 states and Puerto Rico), less than 1% were exposed to or confirmed to have COVID-19.

See, even before the COVID outbreak, dental offices were held to the cleanliness and disinfection standards that are currently recommended for all businesses by the CDC, i.e. disinfecting surfaces, sterilizing equipment, and wearing surgical masks when in close contact with patients.

And since, dental offices have gone even further to ensure the safety of their staff and patients. Requiring their staff to wear the highest standard of PPE available, including masks, goggles, and face shields; disinfection of all commonly touched surfaces and equipment; screening staff and patients for COVID; and reorganizing their waiting room and appointment schedules to ensure physical distancing at all times.

But what does that mean for your oral health?

Don’t delay your dental visit – if your dental office is still open and accepting appointments, you should still go in for regular checkups and cleanings or any other preventative care you may need. The British Dental Journal published a report back in June finding that cases of severe COVID-19 symptoms were more common in patients with periodontal disease – severe gum disease – and your dentist is the best resource for identifying and helping treat gingivitis before it progresses.

If you have any questions or want more information about what your dentist is doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, be sure to contact their office directly.