Has the pandemic deterred you from leaving the house unless absolutely necessary, including putting off your dental appointments? Your concerns are not invalid, especially since close body contact is inevitable when visiting a dentist. However, avoiding your dentist during COVID-19 might not be the best idea, and may even put your health at stake. Here’s why.
First, what happens during a dental checkup?
A dental checkup allows your dentist to see if you have any dental problems, or are at the risk of developing one. For example, most cavities when detected early can prevent the need for restorative work like dental crowns or endodontic procedures like a root canal treatment. This will save you a lot of money and time in the long run! Leaving problems untreated can make them difficult to treat, so it’s best to get them checked out early or if possible prevent them entirely.
Depending on how healthy your gums and teeth are, the time between dental checkups can vary from 3 months to 2 years; but in general, we recommend every 6 months just to be safe.
At each appointment, our dentists will:
- Examine your teeth, gums and mouth
- Ask about your general health history. Certain diseases such as diabetes and HIV can lower the body’s resistance to infection, increasing the severity of oral health problems.
- Ask if you’ve had any problems with your teeth, mouth or gums since your last visit
- Ask and give advice on your diet, smoking and alcohol habits (if any) and teeth-cleaning habits
- Perform dental treatments if necessary
- Discuss when your next visit should be
Should I go to the dentist during COVID-19?
Yes, here are some reasons why:
1. Seeing a dentist is essential for health
Apart from flossing regularly and brushing twice a day for 2 minutes, you should also visit your dentist at least once a year to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Research shows that neglecting your oral health could put you at higher risk of developing serious health problems. For example, bacteria from gum infection can enter your bloodstream and cause health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and kidney problems. Gum disease is also especially dangerous during pregnancy as any oral conditions can affect your developing baby.
2. COVID-19 patients with gum disease are in bigger danger
A recent study by the Journal of Clinical Periodontology consisting of more than 500 patients found that those with gum disease are 9 times more likely to die from the coronavirus, 3.5 more times likely to be admitted to intensive care and 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator. In addition, those with poor gum health are at a threefold risk of experiencing complications. This is due to higher levels of inflammation in the oral cavity and blood markers, opening the door to the virus becoming more violent.
3. Prevent dental emergencies
Many people put off seeing the dentist till they experience tooth pain or gum pain. This is not encouraged as oral health problems, when left untreated, can lead to dental emergencies. This past year, many dentists including ourselves have seen an increase in dental emergencies — partly due to staying home more and an increase in food high in refined sugars and carbohydrates, which when combined with harmful oral bacteria can cause tooth decay. Many of those dental emergencies could have been avoided if patients got help from a dentist early!
4. Dentists follow strict safety precautions
Dentistry was flagged as a COVID-19 high risk profession due to our close proximity with patients. Yet, the American Dental Association reported that less than 1% of dentists tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States, a country where the disease has claimed several lives. Why is this so? To begin with, even before the pandemic began, dentists have already been practicing safety policies and disinfectant protocols — these include wearing masks, gloves, eye gear and sterilising patient-care items and devices. At Smilepoint Dental, we ensure our dentists wear protective gear from head to toe, disinfect all tools after each patient visit, and wash their hands before and after in between patients.
We understand that seeing the dentist during COVID-19 may be scary, but as explained the chances of picking up COVID-19 at the dentist is very low. Moreover, keeping your oral health in check can greatly protect you from any complications from the virus. Our clinic is open as per usual during this time; if you have any questions, feel free to contact us!
- Gum disease linked to COVID-19 complications. (2021). British dental journal, 230(6), 331. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-021-2868-4