After months of emergency-only appointments, dental offices are reopening and flourishing. The coronavirus curtailed routine visits to dentists because of the very nature of dentistry that requires close contact with the patient's mouth. The dental industry has lost money and jobs during the shutdowns, but experts say they are seeing a return in patient demand.
According to Axios, the World Health Organization recommended that "non-essential oral healthcare — which usually includes oral health check-ups, dental cleanings, and preventative care — be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates."
According to NPR, dental offices are likely places for the transmission of the virus because dentists use high-speed drills and other equipment that can send a "visible spray that can contain particle droplets of water, saliva, blood, microorganisms, and other debris" into the air and land directly on others and on surfaces. However, dentists have more protective equipment now than they did prior to the pandemic, according to Axios.
While most dental practices are open, experts predict that their revenues may be slashed by 40% this year. Another downside to delaying routine visits is that putting off dental care may lead to an increase in emergency cases, said David Holmberg, CEO of Highmark Health, a company that owns Concordia Dental.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises dentists to carefully screen and assess patients to evaluate the risks versus benefits of dental care during these trying times.
The American Dental Association and the CDC issued guidelines for dental settings that are constantly being updated. Their recommendations include:
- Screening patients before appointments and when they arrive, checking for symptoms such as coughing and fever.
- Asking patients to wait outside or in their cars until the staff is ready for their appointment.
- Removing items such as toys, magazines and coffee stations from the waiting room.
- Requiring masks for patients as well as staff. Patients can remove them during procedures but must put them back on immediately.
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