The COVID-19 pandemic effectively upended everything that we knew, including routine visits to the dentist.
When the pandemic first hit, dental practices across Canada cancelled appointments with their patients and halted all procedures. Since the disease was airborne, it wasn’t safe to be within two metres of a person that you didn’t know. As a result, dental treatment was impossible for a while.
After Public Health guidance gave the all-clear, businesses across the country started re-opening, including dental offices. Dental professionals had to adapt their practices to address key issues surrounding health, safety and accessibility.
So, how have dental offices changed since COVID-19? What can patients expect from the future of dental care? We will answer all of these questions and more.
Comprehensive Oral Health Care
When dentist offices first reopened, they were only allowed to focus on emergency dental treatment. Visits to the dentist’s office were limited because stay-at-home guidelines were still in place across Canada. You were only allowed to visit a dental practice if your oral health was in serious danger. Some examples of dental emergencies include chipped or broken teeth, lost fillings or crowns, abscesses, bleeding, and more.
Since then, dental offices have been allowed to expand their treatments to routine dental care. You and your family can now visit your dentist’s office for teeth cleaning, check-ups, and other treatments.
While some offices have been able to catch up on their cancelled appointments, some may still be. Have patience with your office as they try to catch up after months of delay.
Increased Personal Protective Equipment
Coronavirus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets are produced when someone sneezes, coughs, or even breathes. These germs weren’t a concern before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic, dentists and dental hygienists typically wore masks and gloves while providing services to patients. While these pieces of personal protective equipment are helpful, they did leave dental professionals exposed to a lot of germs.
When the pandemic hit, Public Health guidelines encouraged essential businesses to implement complete personal protection equipment (PPE). Dental professionals adorned masks, goggles, hair caps, and aprons to prevent respiratory droplets from being spread from patient to dentist or vice versa.
Research has shown that these pieces of PPE effectively reduce the spread of coronavirus in the dentistry profession. While safety protocols will be reduced, patients can expect Canadian dentists and dental hygienists to wear more PPE than before. It is unlikely that PPE use will lessen because it decreases the risk of becoming ill. As a result, dental offices can protect both their staff and their patient communities better.
Reduced Capacity In Dental Practices
The waiting room of your local dental practice may be more empty going forward. The pandemic forced every dental office to reduce its capacity to enforce social distancing; social distancing guidelines required there to be at least two metres (or six feet) between patients. While this meant fewer patients could be seen in a day, many oral health professionals found that these procedures helped their practice.
Before COVID-19, dentist waiting rooms could become crowded with patients waiting for their appointments. Treatment may become rushed to fit in everyone, meaning that care was less personalized and patients were less likely to receive the super they needed. When dentistry professionals had to slow down their services last year, they realized that fewer appointments solved many of these problems.
Dental offices are reducing their capacity, and patients get to reap the benefits. You can enjoy more in-depth patient care, personalized support, and quality services. In addition, fewer people at your dental practice at one time means that there is less risk to your health; the best COVID-19 prevention is social distancing.
Extensive Disinfection Protocols
As previously mentioned, coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets, also called aerosol. Most dental care will involve aerosol-generating procedures like drilling, grinding, and spraying. As a result, offices need to dedicate time between appointments to complete a thorough cleaning.
Every practice needs to take time between every treatment, even routine dental care, to complete cleaning. Cleaning typically includes sanitizing chairs, tables, instruments and more. Such in-depth research can be a long process, but it is important for disease control and prevention.
With this new awareness of respiratory droplets, almost every dental office in Canada has purchased a HEPA air filtration system. A HEPA air filtration is a powerful air filtration system that will clean the air of any respiratory droplets. This system can save many people the stress and worry of visiting their dental office for routine dental care; they know that the HEPA filter is cleaning the air throughout the entire practice.
Online Oral Health Care
Much like other health services, the dentistry industry developed an online appointment system. A patient can book an appointment with a dental hygienist online to speak to them about their oral health. As a result, patients can receive guidance and clinical information without visiting their dentist’s office.
After assessing their symptoms, the hygienist can offer guidance or recommend they seek urgent dental care. They can also book an appointment for the patient in the office. While support can be virtual, maintaining one’s oral health must be done in an office. Nevertheless, online patient care is a huge advantage.