Dentists’ offices have officially been given the go-ahead to reopen in New York State, which is good news for anyone who needs a cleaning or more extensive work. Of course, all that up-close mouth touching comes with some COVID-19 risks, so your next visit might look a little different from your last one.
The New York State Department of Health has provided some official guidance to protect dentists, office staff and patients. Here’s how to prepare and what to expect — and note that your dentist’s office might have their own set of rules, so it’s a good idea to call ahead.
—Wear a mask, except when receiving care. Your dentist and other staff members should be masked up as well.
—Stay six feet away from staff and other visitors at all times (also except when receiving care). Your dentist’s office should have spaced out the waiting room accordingly.
—Don’t bring someone with you unless you must. The office will do its best to limit the number of people in its waiting room to prevent indoor overcrowding.
—Expect more contact-free additions in the office, like automatic soap dispensers, contact-free credit card machines, and no magazines in the waiting room.
—If you feel sick, do not go to your appointment. Reschedule or teleconference instead.
—The health department has mandated that staff clean and sterilize patient rooms after each use, as well as wait 15 minutes between each patient for any potential aerosolized droplets to fall to the ground. This means that waits between patients might be longer.
In general, if you need to go to the dentist, go to the dentist. But if you can wait a little longer to see the dentist, consider making a telehealth appointment or extending your cleaning for a few months. This will open more space for patients who need care right away and protect staff (and you!).