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How to safely visit the dentist during the pandemic

B.C. dentists prepare to keep patients and staff safe during reopening
For many dentists who are reopening, keeping their patients and staff safe means much more than checking temperatures and sanitizing. Linda Aylesworth reports.

Is it safe to visit the dentist during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dentists can’t eliminate all risk, but they are taking steps to minimize the chances of spreading the coronavirus.

You’ll likely notice changes as soon as you enter the office. Many dentists have removed magazines from waiting rooms, for example, as well as some chairs to encourage social distancing. They also are spacing out appointments to avoid crowding their offices.

Read more: Digital screenings, PPE and no waiting rooms — how COVID-19 is changing dentistry

You may be asked to arrive for your appointment with a facial covering and to wait in your car until equipment is cleaned and the dentist is ready. Before receiving care, you can also expect staff to take your temperature and ask about COVID-19 symptoms.

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Procedures are changing, too.

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Coronavirus is spread mainly through droplets people spray when they talk, cough or sneeze. Dental care requires close quarters and procedures that can generate a spray of saliva and water. To reduce risk, dentists are returning to manual tools for procedures like teeth cleanings, instead of other instruments that may do the job faster but create more of that spray.

Read more: Here’s what your visit to the dentist will look like under COVID-19

Staff also have started wearing masks, face shields and other personal protective equipment. Some dentists are charging for all the extra gear, so ask in advance if you should expect extra costs.

As the pandemic spread earlier this year, dental offices in the U.S. mostly closed, except for emergency care. By the end of June, nearly all offices had reopened, according to surveys by the American Dental Association.