“Tooth” be Told: Is it safe to get my teeth cleaned during a pandemic?

By: Rosie Torres, R.D.H.

Is it safe?

Yes! And here’s why:

• A new study by the American Dental Association (ADA) indicates that less than 1% of dentists nationwide have tested positive for COVID-19.

• The ADA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that dentistry is essential health care.

• The CDC hasn’t reported any documented transmissions of COVID-19 in a clinical dental setting to date.

• Experts conclude that this is due to the safety protocol and infection control practices that dental offices have had for decades.

• Dental health is not only important not for your teeth and gums, but also because dental infections can lead to more complicated problems, including respiratory failure and heart disease.

Did you know?

This past January marks one year since the first COVID-19 cases were reported in theUnited States.  So much has changed since then, and we are all still learning new things
about the virus.

Many patients missed at least one or more of their regular bi-annual dental cleanings this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe you are concerned about whether it’s safe to come in. Or feel anxious about going to the dentist before COVID-19 and now have another reason to avoid it. Whatever the reason, avoiding going to the dentist can have serious negative effects. Not only your oral health, but your overall systemic health as well. Infections and cancer screenings can go undetected sometimes. Untreated dental problems could lead to tooth loss, gum swelling and even a lack of proper nutrition  (not being able to chew properly). The longer these problems go untreated, the more costly they can be to resolve.

Benefits Of Dental Cleaning

We already know that regular dental cleanings potentially decrease overall oral bacterial concentration, thereby reducing the systemic inflammatory response. But new research studies indicate that having these regular dental cleanings can actually decrease the severity and risk of COVID-19 respiratory problems. Existing oral bacteria can be aspirated and affect lung function. This could lead to an increased risk of pneumonia, COPD and, potentially, COVID-19 related pulmonary complications. If these bacteria are controlled, it can reduce inflammation and be greatly beneficial to the lungs.

The American Heart Association (AHA) is also an advocate for receiving regular dental cleanings, even during COVID-19. According to the AHA, people with certain heart conditions have a greater risk for developing endocarditis (a bacterial infection that enters the bloodstream). This can occur as a result of poor oral hygiene or improper brushing. Delaying dental treatment could be more damaging long-term than contracting a viral infection such as COVID-19.

Still not convinced?

The “tooth” is, going to the dentist for a dental cleaning right now is safer than ever. Here’s what we’re doing to ensure that you feel safe and comfortable during your visit.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Almost one year ago, at the height of the pandemic, dentistry was considered one of the most at-risk professions for infection. We have since learned that there is actually a far
lower prevalence of infection compared to other health professions. Dentists and dental hygienists are highly trained in infection control protocol and are taught to use “universal precautions” when treating their patients. This means that they assume that every patient is infectious and contagious, which has been ingrained in them way before COVID-19 ever existed. If there is a risk of transmission, the person most at risk would be the dental professional – not the patient, according to the American Dental Association.

Because of this, we use the highest level of personal protective equipment available. Our dental treatment staff, which includes dentists, dental hygienists and assistants,
wear N-95 masks, eye wear (such as goggles, glasses, or loupes), isolation gowns, impervious lab coats, gloves, and disposable hair coverings. During dental cleanings,
your dental hygienist will be wearing two masks – an N-95 mask which is covered by a Level 3 surgical mask (Level 3 offers the highest level of protection for bodily fluid splatter) along with a face shield.

Reducing Aerosols During Dental Cleanings

The American Dental Association (ADA) now recommends that dental professionals use high-velocity suction whenever possible during dental cleanings. To accommodate this,
your dental hygienist will now use the “Ivory ReLeaf” system when cleaning your teeth. Having a “leaf-like” shape, this is a thin, comfortable, and flexible tip that sits on the side
of your mouth in between your teeth and cheek during the cleaning. The ReLeaf uses high-powered suction to help collect water and other particles in your mouth while your
hygienist works. Many patients have commented that the ReLeaf system is a big improvement by controlling the water building up in their mouth and describe it as being
extremely comfortable and accommodating.

Enhanced and Upgraded Infection Control Protocol

Everything in our office is continuously hospital-grade sterilized during your appointment.  We have added more time in between patients to be able to disinfect the treatment rooms. Our office has also upgraded ventilation, including High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter units that trap fine particles.

We use an electric cold fogger to apply a non-toxic, environmentally friendly solution that helps to reduce the bacterial/germicidal count in the air. Nicknamed the “ghostbuster gun,” by our office staff, our “Vectorfog C100+ ULV Fogger” is used several times per day in the waiting room area, hallways and operatories.

Daily Health Screening For Both Patients And Employees

All of our dental staff have their temperature taken every day when they arrive in the office and a log is kept. In addition, they provide written acknowledgement of
screening for COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone entering our office is required to wear a mask. We will provide you one at your visit  if you don’t have one.  When patients arrive in the office, they are required to fill out a COVID-19 screener and their temperature is taken.

Individual pens are provided to reduce contamination, and patient appointments are staggered. Our waiting rooms have been rearranged and  our front desk staff have modified their check-in process to  minimize contact. Magazines and pamphlets have been removed from the waiting area, and automatic hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout the office. We are requesting that adult patients arrive unaccompanied unless a caretaker is required, and minors are accompanied by only one guardian.

Patients are seated in the treatment room as quickly as possible. Post-dental treatment, a masked front desk office staff member will enter the operatory to perform
general check-out procedures (which formerly occurred at the front desk). We then escort the patient via a different exit than the one they used to arrive. This is
a mandatory safety protocol procedure established by building security to increase social distancing in elevators and exits.

Vaccinations

Our entire office, which includes dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental lab technicians and front desk staff are either actively in the process or have completed
receiving either their first or second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Single-Visit Dentistry

Due to the recent pandemic, most people are trying to limit the amount of time they spend outside of their homes, in public settings. So why should your visit to the dentist be any different? The process for placing traditional dental crowns and veneers usually involves several appointments and lots of time spent in the office. But with our highly advanced technology and in-house lab, you can get high-quality custom-made restorations in just a single office visit. While you wait, you can safely relax in one of our private treatment rooms and even get your teeth cleaned!

Your Health & Safety Are Our Top Priority

At Gallery57Dental, we take both patients’ and our staff’s safety very seriously.  We’ve implemented all of the latest health and safety standards as recommended by all
of the health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Dental Association (ADA), The New York State Department of
Health (NYSDOH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Our heightened infection control and increased attention to both patient and dental team safety is working and we’ll continue to research and monitor the latest recommendations.

If you are still concerned about the safety of receiving any dental treatment at this time, you can call us any time for a consultation to assess if you should come in. Our staff is
more than happy to discuss all of our safety protocol with you. Another tip is to make the first appointment of the day to limit your risk even further. We look forward to seeing you
again and are committed to always providing you with the highest level of safe and professional treatment.

Call 212.246.8700 to find out more information or click here to schedule an appointment with Gallery57Dental.

 

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