The pandemic hit some areas more than others. With shelter-in-place orders being the typical response to local and state governments, dentists’ offices were deemed “non-essential” and shut down. The American Dental Association (ADA) mentions that, during one of their weekly polls in March of this year, they noted that 76% of dental offices in the country were closed to all but emergency patients. As areas are slowly starting to re-open, dentists have to adapt again, this time to seeing patients when they need immediate dental care while under strict controls for the spread of the virus. Will they be able to adapt effectively to this fundamental change in how they should operate?
Threats Could Escalate Quickly
Several dentists like Drescher & Cohen DDS raised concerns during the shutdown that dental emergencies could develop rapidly. Any dentist can testify that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to turn a potential crisis into a real one when it comes to dentistry. Because of the importance of oral health on the entire body, a dental infection could reduce resistance to COVID 19. In particular, gum infections could lead to widespread inflammation, which may contribute to heart disease and diabetes. The icing on the cake is that this inflammation also weakens the body’s immune response, making it more susceptible to the coronavirus. There is still some concern as to whether getting the virus once grants immunity to future infections. If this isn’t the case, these prevention measures become all the more critical.
While the pandemic is still far from over, several states have re-opened their dental practices, realizing that they may be more necessary than first thought. However, the re-opening of these offices has come with a handful of important caveats. The CDC has done its part by offering updated guidelines for dental practices to follow on re-opening. However, there are still a few points of contention that remain unsettled and may cause an issue for dental practices.
Many offices are staggering their arrivals, forcing patients to wait in their cars instead of coming into the office. Heavy post-patient sanitization is also in effect, mostly on areas of high traffic. These precautions may seem extreme to some. However, based on the lack of a solid answer on whether previous infection grants immunity, it may be the only way to ensure patients remain healthy. As with all medical fields, dentistry needs to take the appropriate measures to keep its patients healthy.