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Don't skip your scheduled cleaning - here's how dentists are making your visit a safe one

Posted June 17, 2020 4:59 a.m. EDT

Your oral health is an important component of your overall health, so be sure not to skip your scheduled cleaning. While you may feel reserved about going to the dentist given the current times, dental offices reopening after coronavirus restrictions are taking necessary steps to make patients safe during their appointments. (MCStock/Big Stock Photo)

This story was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Dental Society.

The coronavirus pandemic shuttered the doors of many businesses for months, including dental offices across the state. Now, as North Carolina gradually lifts restrictions, dental practices are reopening and dentists are making sure your scheduled visit is a safe one.

"We're following guidelines with CDC and the American Dental Association," said Dr. Meenal Patel, a dentist in Cary and an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Some of the changes that you'll immediately see is that your car is now your new waiting room. We're texting patients their prescreening questionnaire and asking that you limit the number of people that you bring with you to your visit. Additionally, as dental team members, we're going to be wearing a lot more protective gear to keep you safe and our community safe as well."

Dentists are medical professionals trained in infection control and have been using personal protective equipment for decades. Dentists have handled the HIV crisis and other pandemics like the swine flu over the years, and are versed on safety and sanitation requirements needed to ensure patient safety.

While some patients may be apprehensive to keep their regularly scheduled visits and may want to delay them, it's important to note annual cleanings and routine dental care are just as vital to your oral health as emergent issues like root canals.

Your oral health impacts your overall health, and it's as important as ever to get your regular dental checkup.

"The dental community — through our local society, the North Carolina Dental Society — we've all come together to come up with really good guidelines that are in accordance with the CDC. We want to keep the community safe," Patel said. "Oral health is really important to your overall systemic health and wellness. We want to allow patients to feel safe and come to our offices and know that we are taking the best precautions for them."

Patel noted she and other practices are following protocols from the CDC, ADA and OSHA to keep patients safe, as well as using and following PPE protocols.

"We're here for patients, we're committed to their safety. We're staggering appointments and allowing more time for disinfecting. We're taking temperatures for team members and patients as they're coming and leaving the office. We've also added cough guards and surgically clean air systems in the office," Patel said. "Additionally, North Carolina Dental Society was able to secure N-95 masks for its members, and that was amazing for us."

When you go back for your regular dentist appointment, you might notice the following changes:

  • Your car is now the waiting room. This will help limit surfaces that are touched by you and others.
  • The staff will ask you some questions and take your temperature to make sure you haven't been exposed to COVID-19 or aren't currently sick so as to reduce risk to the office, staff and other patients.
  • Everyone will be wearing more PPE to protect themselves and you from risk of exposure.

These precautions are meant to help protect patients and anyone they interact with from any potential risk of exposure.

Knightdale resident Chris Willis made an appointment at Cameron Village Dentist in Raleigh for a recent cleaning. He said he appreciated the safety efforts being employed, along with the PPE gear the staff was wearing.

"The new patient protocol at Cameron Village Dentist was excellent. Instructing patients to wait in their cars until their dental exam room is cleaned and set-up for the next patient makes perfect sense. They call you to let you know you're ready to go, they greet you and let you in their office, and move you swiftly through their waiting area and into your designated room," Willis said. "The staff was wearing both clear face-shields and medical face coverings for the nose and mouth, as well as gloves. These practices, along with requiring patients to wear their own mask as they move through the office, ensured that they were protecting their clients and themselves."

Willis noted that even before this current situation, cleanliness has always been a main focus of the practice.

"That level of established sanitation, combined with the latest protocols that they have instituted let me know that they truly care about my health and safety — and of course, keeping my teeth clean," he said.

Dentists, like many other professionals during this time, are navigating a new normal. However, Patel emphasized she, her team and other dentists are working hard to make sure patients have the cleanest, safest environment to get dental care.

"Patients are really grateful that we're here. They're really happy to see us. And as a dentist — many of you know it's not fun to go to the dentist — so, it's been so nice to hear. It's been really positive," Patel said.

This story was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Dental Society.

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