What the Experts Say About Visiting the Dentist During COVID-19
Now that dental offices are open, many patients would like to know more about visiting the dentist. As Dr. Leonard S. Gordon explains, “Going to the dentist for routine cleanings and dental work in this extended COVID-19 atmosphere is important to maintaining overall good health. At Gordon Center for General & Advanced Dentistry, we feel it’s not just going to the dentist, it’s important to go to the proper, caring dentist. We follow CDC guidelines and have instituted new, extensive COVID safety protocols to ensure your health and safety during dental treatment. So, if you are not one of our patients, ask your dentist what they are doing differently, then compare with our safety protocols. At our office, it is not enough to deliver quality, experienced dentistry, it must be quality, experienced dentistry delivered safely.
To provide additional context we’ve gathered numerous articles on the subject. They’re grouped into two sections: dental offices and infectious disease prevention and dental appointments and your health. Please call or text the office at 301-258-1998 if you have any questions.
Dental Offices and Infectious Disease Prevention
Dr. Matthew Messina, the dental clinic director at the Ohio State Upper Arlington Dentistry, said that there is no reason for people to worry about going to the dentist.
“We’re kind of uniquely prepared to provide a safe, healthy environment for people to come in,” he said. “You know, dental offices have been really committed to universal precautions and high level disinfection and care for patients long before it was cool.”
“We’ve been in a close space relationship with patients for years and years, and have been through a variety of (epidemics), whether it’s HIV or hepatitis or things like that,” he continued. “These are all precautions that we’ve used before, so we haven’t really had to do new things as much as modify existing protocols to provide a safe and healthy environment. The dentist’s office is a very, very safe place for patients to have their treatment done.”
Bill Miller, an epidemiologist and physician at OSU, said it’s important to remember that going to the dentist isn’t the same as going to a barber or hair salon.
“Dentists are accustomed to be thinking about infectious-disease risk,” Miller said. “They’re already taking precautions.”
Dental Appointments and Your Health
But is it smart to see your dentist right now?
Yes, says [American Dental Association spokesperson Cheryl Watson-Lowry, DDS,]. And it’s not just smart—it’s crucial for your overall health. “Unfortunately, dental disease, including cavities, won’t wait for COVID-19 to end,” she says. “It’s extremely important for patients to continue to see their dentist for their regular checkups and cleanings—even during this time—because the longer patients wait and go without preventative care and treatment for early disease, the more likely their untreated disease will progress. And then that can lead to more extensive problems and increase the time and the costs for necessary care.”
Subpar oral hygiene, she points out, can affect more than just your mouth. “Gum disease is an inflammatory disease, and it can affect the rest of your body,” she says.
Also, routine dental exams aren’t just about buffing up your pearly whites—your dentist is likely screening for oral cancer, performing a head and neck exam, and inspecting your lymph nodes, tongue, throat, gums, and other tissues in your mouth to make sure everything is healthy, says Watson-Lowry. For these reasons, you should get a regular dental checkup every six months, she says.
“The study by U.S. dental surgeon Dr. Shervin Molayem and South African scientist Carla Pontes suggests COVID patients with gum disease are more susceptible to a respiratory crisis known as a cytokine storm, essentially an overreaction of the body’s immune system.
“Gum disease has been linked to other breathing ailments, including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, so we weren’t surprised to find a link to respiratory problems with COVID-19,” Molayem said in a press release. “What shocked us was the discovery of the protein’s devastating, life-threatening impact to patients once they’re hospitalized. One tiny, inflammatory protein robbed them of their ability to breathe!”
Bacteria from inflamed gums can be aspirated and adhere to the lung epithelium, promoting infection and subsequently showing up in lung fluids. The bacteria cause secondary infections that can serve as a reservoir for the coronavirus. Mechanical ventilation decreases clearance of oral secretions, increasing the bacterial load and probability of pneumonia development.
“As the death toll keeps climbing, the CDC now predicts the virus will be among the leading causes of death in the United States, just behind heart disease and cancer,” Molayem said. “Now … we’ve confirmed periodontitis makes it even deadlier.”
“Many times people do not comprehend that teeth are attached to the body, to the bone and head, and that it is as important to take care of their teeth as their organs,” [Dr. Chad Gehani, the president of the American Dental Association (ADA),] said. “Most of the dental diseases are preventable and, if detected in an early stage, they are very inexpensive and they are very easily treatable. If you let the oral condition go for too long a period of time, it can become more complicated later on.”
“Dentistry is not an elective procedure,” said Purnima Kumar, a professor of periodontology at Ohio State University. “They’re important to your mouth health, as well as to the health of the rest of your body.”
If you have any questions about visiting the dentist, you can call or text the office at 301-258-1998 with specific questions.