Is it safe to go to the dentist?

Is it safe to go to the dentist coronavirus
Photo via sergio santos/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • It’s unknown how likely it is to catch the coronavirus at a dentist’s office
  • The CDC has extensive guidelines for reopened offices
  • Even with N95 masks, dentists aren’t completely safe either

As the U.S. economy continues to open, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given dental practices a weary green light to resume non-emergency services. 

“Dental settings should balance the need to provide necessary services while minimizing risk to patients and dental healthcare personnel,” the CDC says on its guidance for dental settings

The CDC reports there isn’t currently any data that shows how likely it is to contract COVID-19 at the dentist. 

Although the CDC said dental practices could open, the organization warned there are still risks involved with going to the dentist. It explained that dentists have to use dental instruments—like ultrasonic scalers and air-water syringes—that create a “visible spray” that may contain “water, saliva, blood, microorganisms, and other debris.”  

Even with an N95 mask on, dentists run the risk of potentially contracting the virus because those types of face coverings do not provide complete protection

Opened dental practices should be following the CDC’s extensive guidelines, which include recommendations for patient management, equipment considerations, hygiene, and PPE. Additionally, dentists can look to the American Dental Association’s guide to practicing ethically during COVID-19. 

Prospective patients should call their dentist and see which guidelines they are following before deciding to get a routine teeth cleaning. 

Yale Medicine infectious doctor Joseph Vinetz told Health that dental procedures are safe “as long as the dentist and assistants wear masks and get tested.” 

If you haven’t yet set an appointment with your dentist, you may need to do so quickly. David Tecosky, a dentist in Philadelphia, told NPR he has a two-month or longer backlog of appointments. That’s because he’s making up postponed visits from the shutdown and partly because dentists have to take fewer appointments daily to allow for cleaning. 

In early August, though, the WHO made new recommendations and said that patients should delay non-essential dental treatment in areas where community spread is still occurring.

Is it safe:

Sources: CDC, Health, American Dental Association, NPR

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