Is it safe to visit my dentist during Coronavirus?
The Coronavirus pandemic is changing the way we do things, and dental care is no exception.
Dentists are no longer allowed to provide normal care, such as regular check-ups and tooth whitening, so as to minimise the spread of COVID-19. However, if you’re in a lot of pain, we will still be able to treat you.
Here’s how the coronavirus is changing the way we look after our teeth.
Why You Can’t Go to the Dentist during Coronavirus
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets. Every time you cough or sneeze these droplets fly through the air. If someone breathes this in, they can get sick. It’s also in the mucus and saliva in your mouth and throat. Those are fluids your dentists and their tools easily come in contact with. Some dental devices can spray these droplets around especially when your dentist uses a drill or when scaling and polishing.
Dentists are used to following stringent infection control precautions under normal circumstances to lower the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, whether they are respiratory diseases or blood-borne.
These precautions help keep both patients and dentists safe because it assumes all patients may have an infection, despite the reality that most won’t.
However with the coronavirus pandemic, there is an increased risk of aerosols carrying the virus either directly infecting dental staff, or landing on surfaces, which staff or the next patient can touch.
This transmission may be possible even if you feel perfectly well, as not everyone with the virus has symptoms.
Who is making these recommendations?
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – the key decision-making committee for health emergencies – has recently recommended dentists only provide treatments that do not generate aerosols, or where generating aerosols is limited. And all routine examinations and treatments should be postponed.
This is based on level three restrictions, according to guidance from the Australian Dental Association.
Recommendations of what is and isn’t allowed may change over time.
What does it mean for me? Can I still get a filling?
What’s not allowed?
Non-essential dental care is now postponed. This includes routine check-ups and treatment where there is no pain, bleeding or swelling. So treatments such as whitening and most fillings will have to wait.
Other conditions or treatments that will need to be postponed include:
- tooth extractions (without accompanied pain or swelling)
- broken or chipped teeth
- bleeding or sore gums
- halitosis (bad breath)
- loose teeth (that aren’t a choking hazard)
- concerns about dentures
- crowns and bridges
- clicking/grating jaw joint
- scale and polish
What is allowed?
Some patients will need urgent care for acute problems requiring treatments that produce aerosols. So such procedures have a risk of spreading COVID-19.
Permitted treatments are limited to:
- tooth extractions or root canal treatment when someone is in acute pain caused by damage to, or death of the nerve in the tooth
- where upper front teeth are significantly damaged, for example, in an accident (this is an instance where a filling could be provided)
- management of ulcers or other problems with the lining of the gums and mouth
- providing care for patients with complex medical conditions and where not treating may lead to worsening of their general health
- managing patients who have dental problems linked to social or cultural factors and that will develop quickly if professional care is not given
- where a patient is referred by a doctor for care that is medically necessary.
Can I still go to my regular dentist?
Yes, we are still open to manage dental problems causing pain that are urgent or are an emergency.
What if I have COVID-19 or may have it?
If you need urgent dental care and think you may have COVID-19, it’s important to call us immediately to discuss your particular situation.
But if you have a dental emergency and have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you will be referred to a hospital with appropriate facilities.
What can I do in the meantime?
COVID-19 is going to be with us for many months. So it’s important to look after your oral health by maintaining a healthy diet and oral hygiene routine.