Dentists Are Coming Back, But It's Not Business as Usual
On Tuesday, May 26, the Ministry of Health lifted restrictions to allow for the gradual restart of some health-care services. This includes being able to see the dentist again.
While this is good news, it doesn’t mean your dentist is open right now, or that it’s back to business as usual.
There is still a pandemic happening – that’s why dentists are taking extra precautions to ensure the protection of their patients, staff and themselves. Your next appointment will be a little different than what you’re used to.
Offices Must Meet Safety Requirements
For a dental office to reopen, it must meet all updated safety guidelines. These guidelines have been finalized by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) and are there to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the office and the community.
Keeping this in mind, dental offices will reopen in stages. For many dental offices this could take some time, so please be patient. Dentists are just as excited to see you as you are to see them and are doing their best to get back to caring for you as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will it be safe to visit my dentist when their office reopens?
Yes. Dentists have always followed very strict infection prevention and control procedures. With these added COVID-19 guidelines, dentists can begin preparing to provide you with the safest care possible. Your dentist will open their office only when they can meet these safety requirements. Their priority is to protect you, other patients and their staff.
What will be different?
Here are some of the changes you can expect at your dentist’s office:
- Appointments will be spaced out to allow physical distancing between patients. It will also allow time for their office to be disinfected between each appointment. That might mean less flexibility for scheduling your appointment
- The day before your appointment your dentist or their staff will ask you questions to see if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. Your temperature will likely be taken with a touchless thermometer
- You will be asked to wear a mask or face covering while in the office except when you are being treated
- Dental staff will be wearing more protective gear than normal. This includes masks, face shields, and gowns. Your dentist must ensure that they have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) before they schedule an in-person appointment
- You may be asked to limit the number of people you bring to the appointment with you. 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 must then wait for a call back to let you know 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, as these are all difficult to disinfect
- Patients must wash their hands with a 70 to 90 per cent alcohol-based solution, or soap and water, when they enter and leave the dentist's office
- Bathrooms will likely be closed to patient use
- Plan to pay by touchless payment, such as credit card or Interac
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.)
My dentist’s office is not open yet, and I think I have a dental emergency. What do I do?
Call your dentist first. 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. Not all dentists have the safety equipment (PPE) needed to guard against COVID-19. Do not go to a hospital emergency room for a dental problem at this time.
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
- If you’re consuming marijuana, do so in moderation. Marijuana smoke can cause oral cancer, dry mouth and staining, and THC can weaken your immune system
- Be mindful of stress. Regular exercise, mediation and deep breathing can help reduce the impact of stress on your mouth and 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
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: June 1, 2020