What to Expect at the Dentist During COVID-19
The world is still a very different place than it was at the beginning of 2020. But as we find our new normal, many health services, like dental care, are available to us once again. As we continue to re-open health care services and work to ensure members of our community get the care they need in a safe and timely manner, oral health and dental care are important components of everyone’s overall health and wellness.
Dental Offices are open. Is it business as usual?
As of the end of May, New York State officials declared that dental offices could reopen. Alice Hyde Dental Center initially reopened services for pediatric patient and emergency procedures. Earlier this month, as we further expanded dental services to include aerosolizing procedures for patients of all ages, we have been observing the strict health and safety guidelines required for hospitals in New York State. Our slow and deliberate reopening allowed us to closely monitor infection rates and trends throughout our region. We have also altered our patient schedule to allow for added cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and some appointments have been altered to reduce the production of any unnecessary aerosols or airborne risks to patients and Dental Clinic employees. Because of these new guidelines and procedures, we ask for your patience in scheduling appoints, your diligence in arriving on-time for your appointments, and that you let us know as soon as possible if you cannot keep your appointment.
What should I expect during my first appointment back?
Some of our Dental Center’s processes have changed as we work to ensure everyone’s health and safety during this public health emergency. First, we ask that patients call our office at (518) 481- 2347 when they arrive in our parking lot. Dental Center employees will ask some COVID-19 screening questions and take your temperature before you enter the office. Our new check-in process also reduces your exposure to other patients while you are in our care, which helps keep common areas free from potential exposures and allows for proper social distancing.
Once you enter the Dental Center, all patients are asked to wear a mask and to keep their mask on until they are seated in their treatment room and asked by a staff member to remove their face covering. Our Dental Center health care providers are all wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as determined by state and federal health officials. You may see your dental provider wearing items such as a mask, face shield or goggles, gloves and a clinical gown while performing the procedure you require.
Once your procedure is finished, you will be asked to put your mask back on, and the check-out procedure begins. Our Dental Center employees will collect insurance information, payments and complete scheduling for any future appointments while you are in the treatment room. Once the check-out process is complete, you will be escorted to the exit. Again, our check-out process is designed to limit or eliminate the potential for you to be exposed to other patients while in our offices.
How is dental health connected to overall health/immunity?
The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, and has a direct connection to our overall health. Our body functions through many intricate systems of checks and balances. If our immune system is suppressed due to a sickness or health condition, then it’s not working at full capacity in other areas. Since our mouth is connected to our body, the goal is to keep the bacterial load within normal ranges and help maintain a healthy balance. Just as washing our hands keeps bacteria at bay, brushing and flossing keep our mouth in a clean and healthy balance.
What is oral bacteria a concern for the rest of our body?
There is evidence of a specific link between oral health and heart disease. Recent studies show that if you have gum disease in a moderate or advanced stage, you’re at greater risk for heart disease than someone with healthy gums. More than 80 percent of Americans, for example, are living with periodontal or gum disease, which often goes undiagnosed. This may be because a patient’s teeth feel fine, so they avoid going to the dentist, and visits to a primary care physician rarely focus on oral health.
How are oral health and heart health related?
Oral health and heart disease are connected by the spread of bacteria – and other germs – from your mouth to other parts of your body through the blood stream. When these bacteria reach the heart, they can attach themselves to any damaged area and cause inflammation. This can result in illnesses such as endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. According to the American Heart Association, other cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and stroke have also been linked to inflammation caused by oral bacteria.
Our body’s inflammatory response to oral bacterial also plays a hand in other systemic health conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and there is even said to be a link with preterm labor and low birth weights. So especially now, when our health is of utmost importance, we want to take care not to ignore our dental health.