“Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.” -Dr. Chad Gehani, American Dental Association President
The WHO recently released a statement advising that “routine 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.” This is sad. Less than 1 percent of dentists nationwide have been found to be COVID-19 positive, which is far less than that of other health professionals. We as dentists are taking this pandemic VERY seriously, and through our diligence, we have been preventing the spread while caring for our patient’s health.
As a dental professional, I see this as just one more way that we have separated the mouth from the rest of the body. We complain about dental insurance is different than medical insurance…this isn’t much different…we aren’t considering the oral complex part of the body. Since we were closed from March until May (and donated our PPE to those that needed it most), we are now seeing patients who are even just a month or two overdue for their cleanings. I’m seeing much more inflammation, plaque buildup, dry mouth, redness of the gingiva…all related to missing a visit, and made even worse by an increase in mouth breathing with mask-wearing (seal your mask people!)
The ADA’s guidance calls for the highest level of PPE available—masks, goggles and face shields. Dr. Gehani states, “Millions of patients have safely visited their dentists in the past few months for the full range of dental services. With appropriate PPE, dental care should continue to be delivered during global pandemics or other disaster situations.” We wear scrubs, two gowns that we change between each patient, an N95 with a level 3 mask over that, eye protection, head coverings, and a face shield. We are protected, and we are protecting you.
Be an informed consumer. Ask what your dentist is doing to take precautions for COVID. And recognize the importance of oral health…go to the dentist!