Most dentists in Vancouver will tell you: routine and timely dental care is essential for good oral and overall health. Although the immediate consequences of minor oral health issues like sensitivity and bad breath seems inconsequential at first. Yet, if left untreated, minor oral conditions may contribute to an array of other illnesses, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease .
Seeking regular dental care can avert as many as 80% of common oral disease conditions as well as more serious dental problems . For most people, this means planning to visit the dentist for a routine check-up once every six months and as soon as possible in for dental injuries .
COVID-19 Impacts Every Dentist In Vancouver
There is currently no data about COVID-19 in dental settings. Yet the necessity of being in close-quarters with a patient’s mouth likely increases transmission risk during dental procedures. Additionally, dental tools more vigorously disburse saliva and other contagious material than most other activities. This means that dentists’ everyday practices may not be sufficiently protective against COVID-19 .
However, given the importance of routine dental care, dentists in Vancouver continue to operate despite the severity of COVID-19. What’s more, dental patients now bear increased responsibility for the safety of their dentist and other patients present in the clinic .
Dental Care During COVID-19: Do The Benefits Outweigh The Risks?
In the early stages of COVID-19, health authorities advised all dentists in Vancouver to limit provision of non-urgent services and surgeries. Now, as the outbreak has become more controlled, every dentist in Vancouver has received formal guidance on how to safely expand service offerings . These guidelines are especially consequential for 3 reasons.
- Preliminary research suggests that demand for urgent dental care decreases only 38% during periods with high levels of community spread and the strictest limitations on services .
- When people cannot make appointments with a local dentist, they are likely to seek Emergency Department treatment for non-traumatic oral disease conditions. This system is currently under stress by serving COVID-related patients .
- People with pre-existing conditions and who are immuno-compromised — who are at the highest risk of suffering severe complications from COVID-19 — tend to need more regular and urgent dental care .
For many people, the benefits of visiting a carefully disinfected clinic outweighs the risks of waiting until COVID-19 subsides.
But Is Any Dental Clinic In Vancouver Really Safe?
Dentists are experts in infection management and, as such, have been able to implement enhanced safety protocols. That said, the definition and guidelines of a safe dentist has evolved as public health experts’ understand this disease better. These changes are reflected in the College for Dental Surgeons of British Columbia’s fact sheets for patients and practitioners.
Current Characteristics Of A Safe Dentist In Vancouver
Currently, the most effective techniques for keeping practitioners and patients safe during a dental checkup in Vancouver include:
- Pre-screening patients over the phone for potential symptoms and exposure.
- Requesting that patients wear a face covering at the clinic except during their procedure(s).
- Actively screening everyone who enters the facility for signs of illness.
- Minimizing the number and closeness of people in communal clinic spaces.
- Providing easy access to supplies for respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette (hand sanitizer, tissues, no-touch receptacles) throughout the facility. Particularly in high-touch locations.
- Providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to patients and practitioners based on a point-of-care risk assessment for each patient interaction.
- Implementing enhanced cleaning measures within patient care rooms and public spaces.
- Requesting that patients notify the clinic about any COVID-19 symptoms developed within 48 hours of their appointment.