Read This Before You Go to the Dentist
Dental practices are high-risk during the pandemic. Here’s what to know before making an appointment.
In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, when almost all U.S. dentists had temporarily closed their doors, Ravina Kullar’s mother shut down her dental practice for good. At 70 years old, she was ready to stop practicing — but as it became clear that both her age and profession placed her at particularly high risk, the pandemic “kind of pushed her into retirement,” says Kullar, PharmD, a Los Angeles, California-based infectious disease specialist, epidemiologist, and Infectious Diseases Society of America spokesperson.
To date, no cases of Covid-19 have been attributed to any dental practices in the U.S., according to Kullar and the American Dental Association (ADA). But the practice of modern dentistry places oral health care practitioners and their patients in a uniquely dangerous position — and as practices reopen, people are facing decisions about whether and when to see a dentist.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re one of them.
When used in the mouth, all of these instruments create sprays of tiny droplets and aerosols containing not only water but saliva, blood, and microorganisms.
Why dental practices are uniquely high-risk
The novel coronavirus spreads when virus-contaminated saliva droplets from a symptomatic or asymptomatic person find their way into another person’s nose, mouth, or eyes, conveyed there either by inhaling droplet-filled air or by second-hand contact with a surface (as when a person wipes their nose with their hand after touching a contaminated doorknob).
The issue is that dentist’s offices create huge amounts of saliva droplets. “Look at some of the instruments that they use, such as the drills, the scalers, the air-water syringes,” says Kullar.
When used in the mouth, all of these instruments create sprays of tiny droplets and aerosols containing not only water but saliva — which contains high levels of virus, blood, and microorganisms. The smallest…