COVID-19 has sure changed a lot of things! Is the park open? Can we go to the theater? I don’t know anymore!
Dental offices are open. We are deemed essential, as we are health care providers. People need healthy mouths in order to have healthy immune systems and healthy bodies. A healthy mouth can chew up nutritious food like crunchy veggies, while a mouth that hurts may not be able to chew well at all.
Dental offices have rules we have to follow, like sterilizing instruments and equipment. However, when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19, we get additional guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. These guidelines mean dental offices may differ in how we do business. One may allow you and your child to wait inside for an appointment, while another dental office across the street may ask patients to wait in their cars.
I’ll try my best to field some frequently asked questions about dental visits for kids, keeping in mind that dental offices are allowed to vary their protocols.
What should my child and I bring to the appointment?
Take your masks, of course. We will let your child know when it is time to remove the mask to shine up her smile, and she will put it back on at the end of her appointment before leaving the dental treatment room. Many dental offices offer hand sanitizer at the front door, but you may wish to take your own.
Will I be able to go into the dental office with my child?
Short answer: Call ahead to see what your dentist recommends.
It really depends on the age and comfort level of your child. Of course we want a parent or grandparent to stay throughout the entire appointment for an infant or young child.
For older kids, you may be asked to wait in your car during the appointment. If so, spend some time with a good book, take a walk around the block, or catch a power nap! Your dental office will contact you if they need anything. In my experience, older kids often do better at their appointments if their parents are not present.
What about siblings? Can they go in with us?
This is another case where offices may vary. Call to ask ahead of time in case you need to make babysitting arrangements for any sibs.
What will be different?
Each office is different, but many have added screening procedures like using a touchless thermometer at the front door, questionnaires to ask about recent travel, exposure to sick individuals, and any loss of the senses of taste or smell. We do a visual screening to look for symptoms of illness. Believe me, we don’t want the virus in our workplace, and we are serious about keeping our patients happy and healthy!
What will be the same?
We still use the same high standards for sterilization procedures of dental instruments, and how we sanitize and wipe down rooms hasn’t changed. Our sanitizing procedures and products were ready for all kinds of viruses, including the coronaviruses.
What will the dental team be wearing?
Your child’s dental team will be wearing masks all of the time. You may also see face shields, hair coverings, and possibly disposable gowns, depending upon the office and dental procedure. We may look kind of funny (okay, really funny), but there really is a kind-hearted person underneath all of those layers.
It might be helpful to your child to Google some images of dental professionals at home before the appointment. These can help show your child that their dental provider wears this stuff to keep the cavity bugs off of their skin and clothes.
Will I get a face-to-face with my child’s dentist?
Good communication about your child’s visit is a must! If this is important to you, let your receptionist and dental provider know at the start that if you are not going to be in the treatment room, you’d like face time afterward.
What if junior wakes up with a sniffle on appointment day?
Just to be safe, let’s postpone the appointment for a couple of weeks. Call your dental office and see what they can do to reschedule your child’s visit.
Keeping your family’s dental health in tip-top shape is very important. We dental providers are truly privileged to play an important role in your overall health. Thank you!
Kim Glover is a dental hygienist at Broadway Family Dental Care in Milton-Freewater (www.bwaydental.com). She and her husband are parents of two elementary-schoolers.