Healthy Smiles By Rita Tempel, DDS – This column was published in the Gettysburg Times on June 18, 2020
June is Oral Health Month and what perfect timing: On June 3, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health updated their guidelines for Dental Health Care Personnel during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It is my pleasure to bring you great news regarding dental care—but we do need to proceed with caution—so my goal with this column is to dispel any confusion and bring you up-to-date.
Now, non-emergency dental care, including routine and preventive services, may be performed in a dental office. This is great news because routine dental cleanings and even periodontal treatments have not been allowed since March when restrictions went into place under our statewide “red phase.”
Patients who were due for their periodontal maintenance appointments in March are now three months overdue! For that reason, patients with active or history of periodontal disease will be prioritized for appointments with my dental hygienists. Patients with active periodontal disease and comorbidities such as Diabetes: Securing appointments with your dentist and dental hygienist may be an urgent matter. Even if you don’t have periodontal disease, if you are three months or more overdue, you may be at risk for periodontal disease or gingivitis and dental caries.
While we are in the “green phase,” please remember, we are not resuming “business as usual.” Here are the protocols you can expect:
- Patients will be pre-screened over the phone and their temperatures will be checked before entering dental offices.
- You will also be asked to wear a mask when walking through the building.
- Your dental team will look different because they’ll be wearing additional Personal Protective Equipment or PPE.
- Keep in mind, your time in the office may be extended since dental personnel need additional time to screen you as well as don and doff PPE.
- When your treatment is completed and you have left the building, the clinical team member allows 15 minutes after patient departure before reentering the operatory to clean and disinfect the operatory.
Social distancing guidelines will also be in effect. What does this mean? You may only see one other patient—or you may be the only patient in the building, as scheduling coordinators are paying close attention to adhering to social distancing guidelines. Please be patient with your dentist, dental hygienists, and especially the scheduling coordinators, as we continue to adapt to our “new normal.” These additional measures are being put into place for your safety as well as the safety of the dental team, and everyone with which you come into contact.
There is discussion about COVID-19 cases possibly increasing in the fall, which may lead to us returning to yellow or red phases. This is a compelling reason to see your dentist and dental hygienist now if possible, to take care of your oral health.
So, just to recap with the current situation: Dental offices are prioritizing dental care for the patients with urgent needs and high risk for decay and periodontal infections. However, routine care is now permitted, so now is the time to call your dentist. I wish everyone the very best of health during these challenging times.
Dr. Rita Tempel is an Accredited Member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and owner of Gettysburg Smiles Cosmetic & Family Dentistry as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and owner of Sweet Dreams Gettysburg, 2018 York Road, Gettysburg. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com, follow @ritatempeldds on Instagram, or like her Facebook page @Gettysburgsmiles or call 717-339-0033.