My son just got a call from his dentist’s office reminding him to schedule a routine cleaning. Should he put this off in light of the current coronavirus situation? Or is it safe for him to go?
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
We all know what happens when we neglect regular dental care. (Cue ominous whir of drill.) But when it comes to choosing between a cavity and a potentially deadly virus, most of us would opt for tooth decay.
Still, over the past three-plus months, dental offices have developed rigorous procedures designed to protect their patients (and staff). So long as your son’s dentist is employing such measures, I’d feel comfortable sending him in, even for something as routine as a tooth cleaning.
In particular, I’d want to ensure the dentist and any hygienists or dental assistants who work on patients were wearing masks and face shields. This should minimize the possibility of droplet transmission.
So long as dental staff are wearing masks and face shields, your son almost certainly poses more of a threat to the folks working on his teeth than they do to him. They’ll be digging around in his mouth, not vice versa. With their airways covered, the possibility of droplet transmission from him to them is much greater than it is from them to him.
It would also be reassuring to know a dentist is seeing fewer patients than usual, as it allows extra time to disinfect instruments and workspaces between appointments. While this is probably difficult to ascertain, given that recent reports say that dentists are now carrying about 60 percent of their usual caseload (mostly due to patient cancellations), I think it’s a fairly safe assumption.
Plus, I would imagine that just about every reputable dentist is taking sanitizing procedures even more seriously than usual so as to protect themselves and their staffs while also making patients feel safe.
Finally, as with any healthcare provider, I’d expect a waiting room that allowed proper physical distancing from other patients. If your son feels the quarters are too close, he can always wait outside and ask them to text him when they’re ready.