In my last blog, I explored the relationship between people who have poor oral health and the severity of the symptoms associated COVID-19 disease. The positive relationship would suggest patients should continue to visit their dentists and hygienists for teeth cleaning, scaling and examination during this unusually worrisome period of time.
Safety for patients, staff and treatment providers during your visits
During the visits, we use proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of patients, staff and treatment providers. We also have HEPA air filtering machines to filter out particles as small as nanoparticulate contaminants, as well as the larger particles greater than 0.3 μm. A UV light disinfection machine is also employed to kill germs and virus in the air. Together with other protocols including distancing, shielding and enough fallout time between each patient etc to remove the chance of contracting diseases, the visits at a dental clinic are considered safe from catching any infectious diseases.
Populations at higher risk for many chronic diseases are similar to those at higher risk for getting oral diseases. Common risk factors include poor diet, stress, alcohol and tobacco use, substance misuse, behavioral health issues, domestic violence, and poverty. We should look out for those risk factors in our patients and provide them with the proper remedies like diet counselling, smoke cessation treatment and, in the case of certain issues beyond dentistry or our abilities to treat, referrals to the appropriated professionals for treatments. Sadly, many of these factors have been intensified during this pandemic harsh time.
Besides cleaning, scaling and examination, dentists and hygienists’ roles in fighting this pandemic related ailments should embrace other disease prevention measures. Guidelines should be developed to shift the dental care paradigm to a more preventive focus.
Teledentistry supports the delivery of oral health services through electronic communication means, connecting providers and patients without any physical contact.
Teledentistry can be utilized by dental professionals for education, consultation and triage. It is a very useful tool for delivering some of the preventative cares. During the online sessions, dental practitioners can identify the risk factors mentioned earlier and provide the appropriate therapies like oral hygiene instructions, diet counselling and guidelines for smoke cessation etc. to the patients using virtual counselling. Should the situations require in-office care, the patients’ visits can be arranged online.
The focus during an in-office visits should be on illness prevention and promotion of nonaerosol-generating dental procedures
Prevention that dentists and hygienists can instigate during the dental visit would include providing appropriate oral hygiene instructions, applying topical fluoride after cleaning and scaling, placing dental sealants in pits and fissures, and implementing other measures like promotion of a healthy diet low in sugars, removal of periodontal or gum pockets and management of other active diseases.
Strategies include reduction in common risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use. That may involve referrals to other health care practitioners.
For cleaning, scaling, root planning and other surgical procedures, minimizing the aerosol generating procedures would be the norm to follow. Besides the chair-side HEPA air purifiers that can suck the air droplets into them and filter out the debris and pathogens, other protocols and modified procedures can be utilized to mitigate the aerosol generation. For example, the use of rubber dam during dental treatments like fillings and root canal therapies can definitely help to reduce the bacteria and viruses in the aerosol as well.
Utilization of hand instruments for scaling and root planning instead of ultrasonic cleaning machine are another example of aerosol reduction protocol during teeth cleaning. Implementation of laser to remove cavities, reduction of bacteria in the mouth with pathogen-reduction mouth rinse before treatments, non-surgical periodontal pocket reductions and treatment, laser-assisted bacterial reductions and application of silver diamine or resin-modified glass ionomer in teeth cavities are the other techniques that all dental practitioners should embrace.
Overall, dental providers can play an very important role in reducing the spread of the virus (and any other infectious diseases) within their practices and maintaining the wellness (healthiness) of people in order for them to withstand the insults from the COVID-19.
Office Is Open
Call Dr. Wong at his dental clinic at (289)-861-5111, Affinity Dental Care, if you want to speak to Dr. Wong about your oral health issues that can be related to your overall health. Smile is the key to better total body health. Check out our Burlington Affinity Dental Care location.