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10 Things to Expect When Your Child Goes to The Dentist Post-COVID

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

By Dr. Kami Hoss, dad and Dentist

States have been reopening and closing again for the last couple of months. At the right time, as dental offices reopen, parents will want to schedule or reschedule their children’s appointments for teeth cleaning, orthodontic treatment, or other oral care. Trust me, as a parent to an 8-year-old boy and as a dentist and orthodontist; this topic is on my mind. COVID-19 has presented dentists with challenges—just like all businesses—and you should understand the situation your family is walking into. The good news is that dentists have always effectively dealt with spreadable diseases and will follow a number of protocols to ensure a safe visit.

For decades, dentists have had to deal with viruses (such as Hepatitis and many others). In fact, they use “universal precautions,” meaning dentists treat everyone like they have those viruses by having infection-control processes in place that are going to be also effective for COVID-19. The difference is that the transmission of COVID-19 can be more challenging (droplets in air and surfaces), so dentists have developed additional protocols to protect everyone.

Why visits are vital

As a father myself, I understand how protective parents are of their children. At the same time, COVID-19 doesn’t mean your child can sit out dental care for 2020. For example, cavities get bigger and turn into infections, and then they can require hospitalization or cause further issues.

Plain and simple, professional dental care is still needed for many—especially children, of which 42% aged 2-11 will develop cavities. For the littlest ones, enamel on baby teeth is thinner than on permanent teeth, and the pulp is relatively larger, so dental decay can spread to nerves faster. For all kids, orthodontic problems (oral development, dental crowding, bite problems, etc.) don’t stop because there is a pandemic: And there is a limited window of opportunity during which treatment will get ideal results, and once that window closes, treatment options may become limited or more invasive, and the result can be significantly compromised. In other words, skipping the dentist for several months or a year is a bad idea for a kid’s well-being.

Therefore, as you look to take care of your children’s oral health, know that your family’s next trip to the dentist will look significantly different than your last one, pre-COVID-19. Let’s take a look at what dentists around the country are going to be doing to keep everyone safe.

Oral health’s new normal

Since March, dentist’s offices have been mostly closed nationwide except for emergency procedures. Now, offices are opening back up for routine care everywhere. If the dentist is following the American Dental Association’s (ADA) recommendations for reopening, here are ten things parents can expect to experience before, during, and after their child’s next visit:

1. A welcome-back letter or email letting you know what exactly your dentist is doing for up-to-date infection control measures.

2. A pre-visit screening that will take place before you ever step into the office to ensure you and your child have no COVID-19 symptoms. This screening may take place over the phone or via videoconferencing.

3. There will be unusual “asks.” For instance, dentists are being advised to consider asking patients to wait in their cars or nearby instead of in the waiting room to avoid spreading coronavirus. And they are being advised to ask patients to bring in their own pens for filling out forms to preempt the sharing of germs.

4. Dentists are limiting the number of people in their offices. Therefore, parents may be asked to send in children—who are old enough—by themselves or limit it to only one parent with his/her child(ren).

5. After your family walks into a dentist’s office, there will be extra registration procedures. These will include sanitizing your hands near the front desk and getting your temperature checked.

6. The child and accompanying parents should be prepared to wear a mask upon entering the office and keep it on before and after their care session.

7. If waiting rooms are large enough to enable six-foot distancing, parents will find those rooms to be very different compared to the recent past. There will be no toys, crayons and coloring books, reading materials, and TV remote controls laying around.

8. Front-desk clerks will constantly disinfect all surfaces, clipboards, and other objects to avoid spread, and computers and keyboards will be covered with flexible, clear barriers that will be changed regularly. And clerks will also wear masks, goggles, and/or face shields.

9. Operatory staff will be kept to a minimum. The hustle-and-bustle of the old dental office—with people constantly passing by in the hallway—will not be seen again for a while.

10. At the end of the visit, expect your dentist to request that you call his or her office if you or your child get any COVID-19 symptoms up to two weeks after your visit.

Don’t fear the dentist

Indeed, we are about to enter a new normal for dental patients, young and old, but we can all get through it safely when dentists follow the ADA’s recommendations. Kids need their dentist as much as ever, especially during this crisis, because a healthy mouth maintains a healthy body.

So if you have a child as I do, don’t fear the dentist because the ramifications of ignoring their oral health are too great. At the same time, keep in mind that your family’s next dental appointment is going to be noticeably different than previous visits. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Kami Hoss is a San Diego-based dentist, author, and philanthropist.

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