The American Dental Association has developed science-based guidance to dentists on extra steps they can take, in addition to the infection control procedures they’ve always followed, to help protect their patients and staff. Here’s what you can expect at your next appointment.
To help make sure that patients arriving for their appointments are healthy, your dental office may call you before your appointment and ask you some questions about your current health. They may also repeat these questions when you arrive to make sure nothing has changed.
Your dentist’s office staff may also ask that you limit the number of people you bring to the appointment. That could mean leaving your children at home or allowing older children to go into the office alone while their parent waits outside during their appointment.
If your state or city is requiring people to wear masks in public, be sure to wear one to your appointment. When you arrive at the dental office, you may be asked to wait outside until they’re ready for you. This will reduce the number of people in the office and reduce the amount of time you’re close to other people. When you enter the office, you may have your temperature taken.
Inside the office, you may notice things people often touch in the waiting room – like toys or magazines – have been removed. They may have hand sanitizer available for you to use and may wipe down items you touch, such as pens, clipboards or furniture.
When you’re in the dental chair, you may notice some things look different from the last time you were there. The dentist may have covered the computer’s keyboard with a disposable cover so it can be easily cleaned between patients, for example. Your dentist may also be using different protective equipment than they’ve used at previous appointments. This could include different masks, face shields, gowns and goggles. These additional precautions help protect both you and the dentist.
After your appointment is over, the staff will thoroughly clean the areas where you’ve been using disinfectants that are effective against the virus that causes COVID-19 to prepare for the next patient. This helps reduce the risk of illness being passed to others.
If you start feeling ill with the symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of your appointment, call the dental office. You may have already been carrying the virus at the time of your appointment, so anyone who came into contact with you during that time could be at risk for getting sick too.
Remember, regular dental visits are an essential part of your overall heath. Be sure to reschedule your dental checkups once your local authorities allow dental practices to reopen. Your ADA dentist will make sure your visit is as safe as possible for everyone involved.
It is safe to see a dentist when you are pregnant. Make sure to tell your dentist that you are pregnant and about any changes you have noticed in your oral health. In some cases, pregnancy can actually make some dental problems worse. Brushing and flossing contributes to your overall health, too, and if your mouth is healthy, it’s more likely that your baby’s mouth will be healthy. It’s important to continue to see your dentist during pregnancy for oral examinations and professional teeth cleanings. Good daily care is vital. That means always brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between your teeth once a day, eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks.
Fluoride helps prevent cavities in children and adults by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause cavities. When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, use other fluoride dental products and drink water with fluoride you are preventing cavities and strengthening your teeth’s enamel.
Fluoride, also called nature’s cavity fighter, occurs naturally in varying amounts in water sources such as rivers, lakes and even the oceans. Fluoride was first added to public water systems in 1945 and its use has grown significantly over the past 70 years. The most recent data indicates 74.6% of the U.S. population served by public water systems receive the benefits of fluoridated water.
Studies have consistently shown that optimizing the level of fluoride in community water supplies is safe and effective in preventing dental decay in both children and adults by at least 25%. Simply by drinking water, people benefit from fluoride's cavity protection whether they are at home, work or school.
Dental amalgam is made from a combination of metals that include mercury, silver, tin, and copper. Sometimes described as “silver-colored” fillings, dental amalgam has been used by dentists for more than 100 years because it lasts a long time and is less expensive than other cavity-filling materials such as tooth-colored composites or gold fillings.
Although dental amalgam is a safe, commonly used dental material, you may wonder about its mercury content. It’s important to know that when combined with the other metals, it forms a safe, stable material. Be assured that credible scientific studies affirm the safety of dental amalgam. Study after study shows amalgam is safe and effective for filling cavities. The American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material. The Alzheimer’s Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Autism Society of America and National Multiple Sclerosis Society—all science-based organizations like the ADA—also say that amalgam poses no health risk. As with any dental work, you’ll always want to talk with your dentist about your individual situation in order to make the most well-informed choice.
The Mayo Clinic recently stated that dental amalgam is a safe and durable choice for dental fillings. They also note that "there are several kinds of mercury. The mercury [methylmercury] found in water that can build up in fish and lead to health problems if you ingest too much is not the same type of mercury used in amalgam."
The ADA supports continued research on all dental filling materials and would promptly inform the public if the scientific community and government regulatory bodies determined that any cavity filling material was unsafe for patients. Your dentist’s foremost priority is your health and safety. That’s why the ADA encourages you to talk with your dentist about your cavity treatment options and what’s right for you. For more info, visit the FDA fact page.