This year, taking your kid to the dentist sounds terrifying and risky. At the same time, you don't want to neglect your kid's oral health (or risk them becoming even more terrified of the dentist). So should you keep your kid's dental appointment right now? Or can kids afford to wait a little while?
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned that people should avoid routine dental care and cleanings for the duration of the pandemic, citing concerns over safety and the potential for disease spread. "Oral health care teams work in close proximity to patients’ faces for prolonged periods. Their procedures involve face-to-face communication and frequent exposure to saliva, blood, and other bodily fluids and handling sharp instruments. Consequently, they are at high risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or passing the infection to patients," the organization noted, adding that only painful or emergent care dentistry should be done right now. But the American Dental Association fired back on their website, respectfully disagreeing with the stance: "Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health."
I spoke with a few dentists to find out what they want from their patients right now. Should you take your kid in for their routine visit? Family dentist Dr. Grant Ritchey from Tonganoxie, Kansas tells Romper, "First and foremost, we should follow the science and the statistics and only provide dental care if we can be reasonably sure that we can keep our patients, our co-workers, and ourselves safe." Fortunately, Dentists are prepared for this. They know how to utilize PPE and best hygiene practices, and are continually working to minimize risk. Ritchey says, "Despite dentistry being considered a 'high risk' profession, there have been no reported cases of COVID transmission originating in dental offices" — that he is aware of. The procedures dentists have put into place seem to be working.
Ritchey says that if you're concerned, dentists are more than happy to discuss what their procedures are, and how they're working to make visits safe for everyone. Dr. Rashmi Byakodi agrees. She tells Romper that dentists are doing everything they can to make the visits safe, and that dental care is crucial not only for addressing problems, but also for preventing them. "Oral health greatly influences your overall health. Dental checkups not only help in evaluating your oral health, but also assess your systemic health."
But she does add that not everything needs attention right now. "Treatments like caries removal and restoration, extraction of painful teeth, and oral lesions need to be attended without delay," Byakodi says. "Some cosmetic procedures, like the replacement of teeth and implants, can be postponed." Talk to your child's dentist, address your concerns, and decide what you're comfortable with doing. You can ask them to discuss how they're making the office safe, and let them know what your child needs. All of this information can help you figure out if it's a visit worth keeping, or if it can wait a few more months.