Dentists Are Back, But It's Not Business as Usual
It was in late May when the Ministry of Health lifted restrictions to allow us to see the dentist again, but things aren’t entirely back to normal.
There’s still a pandemic happening which is why dentists are taking extra precautions to make sure everyone in the dental office stays protected. That means you, staff and the dentist!
Keeping that in mind, your next appointment will be a little different than what you were used to. Below you’ll find information on what you can expect.
Offices Must Meet Safety Requirements
For a dental office to be open during the pandemic, it must meet and maintain all updated safety guidance from the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO). Dentists must follow this guidance along with information from the Chief Medical Officer of Health when re-opening their office and providing care. This includes:
- Appointments will be spaced out to allow physical distancing between patients. It will also allow time for the treatment areas to be disinfected between each appointment. That can also mean might mean less flexibility for scheduling your appointment
- Before your appointment and once again when you arrive at the dental office, your dentist or their staff will ask you questions to see if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. Your temperature may be taken with a touchless thermometer when you arrive for your appointment.
- PLEASE stay home if you have flu-like symptoms (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Patients who are sick and have an upcoming dental appointment should call their dental office to report symptoms, reschedule or ask about other care options.
- You will be asked to wear a mask or face covering while in the office except during treatment.
- Dental staff will be wearing more protective gear than normal. Your dentist must ensure that they have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) before they schedule an in-person appointment.
- Plan to come alone. There are exceptions for small children and people who require assistance. If a parent or caregiver is allowed, they will also be subject to all screening measures.
- You may be asked to wait outside the dentist's office and call when you arrive. You'll be notified when you can enter.
- The waiting room will not be open for everyone. Chairs will be spaced two metres apart. There will be no magazines, toys or any other non-essential items in the dental office.
- Patients must wash their hands with a 70- to 90-per cent alcohol-based solution, or soap and water, when entering and leaving the dentist's office.
- Bathrooms will likely be closed to patients.
- Plan to pay by touchless payment, such as credit card or Interac.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to visit my dentist during the pandemic?
Yes. Dentists have always followed very strict infection prevention and control procedures. With the additional COVID-19 guidance, dentists are providing you with the safest care possible. Their priority is to protect you, other patients and their staff.
What about the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending putting off non-essential dental care during COVID-19?
This guidance is meant for countries with wide-spread community transmission of COVID-19 and does not apply to what’s happening in Canada at this time. You can read more about this from our national partner, the Canadian Dental Association.
Rest assured, Ontario dentists have always followed strict infection control standards. During the pandemic, dentists are doing everything they can to put additional levels of protection in place to create the safest environment for everyone in the dental office.
Why is my dentist charging a PPE fee?
Under the pandemic, members of the dental care team now require more personal protective equipment (PPE) – such as N95 respirator masks, gowns, face shields and/or head and foot coverings – when treating patients. Your dentist may charge a PPE fee to cover some of the higher costs of additional supplies needed to provide treatment during this time. A pandemic-related PPE billing code has been created for dentists to use, if necessary.
The ODA publishes an annual Suggested Fee Guide, which is meant only as an informational reference that dentists can use when deciding how to set their own fees. The suggested range for PPE fees is $8 to 18, depending on the amount and type of PPE required for treatment. Your dentist will determine whether to charge a PPE fee, and how much, based on their individual circumstances. (Read more about how dental fees are set by dentists here.)
Before you start any treatment, your dentist must get your informed consent. This means discussing the treatment options and sharing an estimate of the fees (including any PPE fees) you will be charged before you agree to proceed. You can and should ask questions to fully understand the proposed treatment and all its associated costs.
You should also be aware of what your dental plan covers, since each benefits plan is different. The decision to reimburse patients for a PPE fee is made by insurance companies and plan sponsors, e.g. employers. (For general information on dental plans, visit our Dental Benefits Explained page.)
I think I have a dental emergency. What do I do?
Call your dentist. They will ask you for information about your situation and give you advice about next steps. If you need to visit the office, they will let you know if they can help you or will direct you to another dentist or emergency clinic.
What is a Dental Emergency?
A dental emergency is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. This includes:
- Trauma – an injury to the mouth and face
- Severe infection, such as an abscess or swelling
- Bleeding that continues for a long time
- Dental pain that can’t be managed by over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil
Can my dentist just prescribe medications for me over the phone?
Your dentist will decide if over-the-counter medications or prescription medications are necessary, or if you need to be seen at the office. If you need a prescription, your dentist may send it to the pharmacy directly.
How can I take care of my teeth before I can see my dentist?
Practicing good dental hygiene and following healthy lifestyle habits is more important than ever. Here are some tips:
- Brush your teeth using the proper technique at least twice a day for two to three minutes each day.
- Floss daily. It’s more effective than brushing alone, and helps to remove food debris and bacteria from places the toothbrush can’t reach.
- Eat a healthy diet, rich in calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D rich in omega-3 fats.
- Quit or cutback on smoking.
- Be mindful of stress. Regular exercise, meditation and deep breathing can help reduce the impact of stress on your mouth and immune system.
- If you’re consuming alcohol or marijuana, do so in moderation. When you drink, your mouth is exposed to increased levels of sugars and acids found in alcohol, which can be damaging to your teeth. Marijuana smoke can cause oral cancer, dry mouth and staining, and THC can weaken your immune system.
- Snack in moderation, and swish with water after eating sugary snacks to help wash away sugar and acid.
- Chew sugarless gum to help stimulate saliva flow and avoid dry mouth. That salivary stimulation helps protect your teeth from decay-causing bacteria
Click here for tips to stay fresh under your mask.
How do I know if I have COVID-19?
The Ministry of Health has an online self-assessment tool to help you determine if you need to seek care.
If you are having difficulty breathing or experiencing other severe symptoms, call 911 immediately. Advise them of your symptoms and travel history.
Where can I find current, credible information about COVID-19?
The ODA recommends checking in daily with the Ontario Ministry of Health’s website for the latest updates: https://covid-19.ontario.ca.
Other reliable sources include:
Last updated: September 18, 2020