Some parents might be hesitant to make dental appointments for their children during the coronavirus pandemic. After all, dentists had a government-mandated break earlier in the year, and in August the World Health Organization gave questionable guidance that routine dental care be avoided until we sort this whole COVID-19 thing out.
These steps were taken as precautionary measures until we had sufficient information about what we were dealing with and how to effectively contain it. That’s why infectious disease experts, the American Dental Association, and dentists everywhere can now confidently say “It’s safe to go to the dentist.”
So how do we know that?
Covid-19 Prevalence and Infection Control Practices Among Dentists
Earlier this year, the American Dental Association Science & Research Institute (ADASRI) and the Health Policy Institute (HPI) teamed up to produce the first large-scale collection of U.S. dentists’ infection rates and infection control practices related to COVID-19. This study enlisted the help of more than 2,000 dentists in the U.S. to determine the actual risk posed not just to patients but to the dental professionals themselves.
By this time, practices like ours were already taking significant measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while keeping our practices open for our patients. Along with new screening procedures, we’ve ramped up our personal protective equipment (PPE) and taken cleaning to extreme levels. How well has it been working?
Based on the data from the study, less than 1 percent of dentists across the country have a confirmed or probable COVID-19 infection, and contact tracing has shown zero evidence of COVID-19 transmission in dental offices.
This is simply an amazing result, as it was presumed that dentists had some of the highest risk levels because of close proximity to patients and the aerosols generated during procedures.
“The fact that dentistry was named one of the most at-risk professions for infection, but has a far lower prevalence of infection compared to other health professions, is not a coincidence,” said Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., vice president of the HPI. “The profession has taken this issue extremely seriously, and it shows. We will continue to track the rate of COVID-19 among dentists and other facets of the pandemic affecting dentistry so it can help inform the dental profession and other industries as well.”
It’s good news, but I’m not surprised. Dentists are infection control experts. We always take precautions to decrease the risk of disease transmission via air or blood.
Oral Health Impacts Overall Health
Much of dental care is preventive. Dental problems can impact other aspects of the body, so good overall health begins with oral health. It’s important to keep up with regular visits and cleanings and not put off treating cavities. Delaying treatment of a minor problem could result in a bigger, more serious problem down the road.
If you’ve been holding off on dental visits due to COVID-19, be assured that your family’s health is our priority. Our first job is to ensure the safety of our patients. If I wasn’t completely confident that our team could protect your family, we simply would not open our office!