Dentistry and the COVID-19 pandemic
May 7, 2020
Hello Seeley Swan friends and community members!
First, I wish to thank the support of our community throughout the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and the understanding of many patients who had appointments canceled.
Second, Partnership Health Center is taking every precaution to keep everyone safe and I feel fortunate to work for an organization taking this public health crisis seriously.
The Center for Disease Control along with the American Dental Association called on dentists to stop elective and routine care and only provide emergency care. Unfortunately for everyone, the preventative oral health services we used to offer are postponed until clear guidance from reputable sources gives us the scientific knowledge we need to know how to move forward safely.
Many people ask me why dental procedures are considered a high-risk environment for the spread of COVID-19. To understand better, it helps to know how COVID-19 is spread.
The World Health Organization considers COVID-19 to be a droplet transmission disease. Droplets are particles of spit and respiratory secretions released by our nose and mouth during speech, sneezing, coughing and breathing. Typically these droplets fall within three feet but can go as far as six feet, which is why the physical distancing guideline is recommended.
In the dental setting, filling and hygiene procedures use high-speed rotary instruments that can turn these larger droplets into microscopic particles which are able to hang in the air. This is called aerosolizing. Aerosolized particles can linger in the air for longer periods of time. It remains unclear if aerosolized particles remain infectious or can infect another person. Dentists eagerly await that data.
Now that we can understand why dental offices are high risk for transmission, we can understand why the Center for Disease Control makes the recommendation for only emergency dental care. You may wonder what is considered a dental emergency. Fortunately, the American Dental Association published a nice document available at mouthhealthy.org/virus.
While many dental appointments are being delayed, the ADA recommends that patients seek care as soon as possible for any of the following: bleeding that doesn't stop, painful swelling in or around your mouth, pain in teeth or jaw bone, gum infection with pain or swelling, after surgery treatment (dressing changes, stitch removals), knocked out teeth from trauma, broken teeth that are painful or causing lip and tongue ulcerations, denture adjustments for people receiving radiation or other treatment for cancer, snipping or adjusting wire of braces that are causing trauma to oral tissues and biopsy of abnormal tissue.
Dentistry is adapting to the new normal. Many dentists are now offering telehealth appointments to help address concerns. Sometimes we find we actually should see you in person and sometimes we can successfully manage the issue over technology.
What an amazing world we live in! See you at the clinic.