COVID-19: What to Expect at the Dental Office

Getting Dental Care During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for some Ontarians to take care of their dental health. Your dentist would like to see you again – and your safety is their priority.


Dentists are using their training as infection prevention and control experts to help keep dental offices safe during the pandemic. That means even more safety measures than before, such as extra personal protective equipment (PPE), changes to waiting rooms, advanced screenings, and touchless thermometers.

Dental problems are easier and less expensive to treat before you can see or feel them, which is why it’s important to resume your regular appointments so that your dentist can catch any problems early. Call your dentist and find out what your options are. Because the last thing you need this year is a toothache.

Dentists are committed to keeping their offices safe and open.

Your next appointment will be a little different than what you were used to. Dentists must follow the updated safety guidance from the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario and information from the Chief Medical Officer of Health when providing care during the pandemic. Here’s what you can expect.

  • Appointments will be spaced out to allow physical distancing and disinfecting between patients. This might mean less flexibility when scheduling your appointment.
  • You will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms both before your appointment and upon arrival at the dental office. Your temperature may be taken with a touchless thermometer when you arrive for your appointment.
  • You will be asked to wear a mask or face covering while in the office except during treatment.
  • Dental staff will be wearing more PPE than normal.
  • Your office may ask that you come alone. There may be exceptions for small children and people who require assistance. If a parent or caregiver is allowed, they will also be subject to screening measures.
  • You may be asked to call when you arrive and wait outside the dentist's office until your appointment. You would be notified when you can enter.
  • The waiting room will not be open to everyone. Chairs will be spaced two metres (or six feet) apart. There will be no magazines, toys, or any other non-essential items in the dental office.
  • Patients must clean 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.

PLEASE stay home if you have flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you are sick and have an upcoming dental appointment, call your dental office to report symptoms, reschedule, or ask about other care options.

We thank you for helping us keep our offices safe for everyone. We’re all in this together.

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 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 benefit 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 the 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 cut back 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:

Other reliable sources include:

Last updated: November 4, 2020
Your Oral Health