Raleigh, N.C. — The World Health Organization recently suggested that people delay routine dental appointments, at least until nations have a better handle on the spread of coronavirus.
So what should people due for a six-month cleaning do?
“It’s a personal choice, but I say absolutely [go],” said Dr. Jessica Lee of UNC Health.
“We really need to keep up the check-ups to make sure our mouths are healthy,” Lee said. “If there is something that is being neglected, if you couldn’t get to a dentist in the past three months, any dental illness will get worse if not detected early.”
Current safety standards will keep dental workers and patients safe, she said.
Dr. Tasha Hinton, for example, said she works in full protective gear to ensure both she and her patients are safe during the pandemic.
“I can’t afford to get this thing, no matter how mild or not it might be,” Hinton said of COVID-19.
The WHO said the close proximity of dentists and hygienists to people’s open mouths increases the risk of the respiratory droplets that carry coronavirus spread from one person to another.
“However, urgent or emergency oral health care interventions that are vital for preserving a person’s oral functioning, managing severe pain or securing quality of life should be provided,” the organization said.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also updated its guidance for dentists, calling for eye protection, masks and N95 respirators.
“It’s really a tweak of what we’ve been doing,” Lee said.
“It’s a mess,” Hinton said of changing rules during the pandemic, noting different groups are seen as more or less susceptible to coronavirus from one month to the next.
“We read it, we take it in,” she said of the guidance. “But I feel like everything I’m doing is above and beyond, so I don’t stress so much.”
The CDC also updated the definition of fever when screening people for symptoms related to COVID-19, lowering it to 100 degrees.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had to turn one or two people away,” Hinton said. “They had a temperature, and thankfully, it kept my people protected as well.”