As we navigate through the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, dentists and dental auxiliary staff continue to be front line healthcare heroes. They keep their patients healthy by giving them the information they need to care for their teeth and gums at home and the preventive and restorative dental care needed to protect and enhance their oral health. Without dispute, there are many linkages between oral health and overall health and wellness. This makes dental professionals respected, valued and essential partners in our broader healthcare system.
Those of us in the dental insurance industry owe our success to our dental networks. Northeast Delta Dental’s dental network is the region’s largest and includes over 1,800 dentists in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. There are several dentists on our boards of directors and trustees.
Remember that when dental offices reopened in the spring of 2020 after a few months of being restricted to only emergency procedures, they adhered to safety protocols developed by the American Dental Association in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and with approval of state government reopening task forces. They continue to use rigorous safety protocols. We heard recently from our dentists that new CDC recommendations don’t agree with public health policies, making decision-making more difficult for them. Dentists weigh all reliable information on safe patient treatment, keeping patient, staff, and public safety at the forefront of their considerations. They are hoping for clearer guidance from the CDC; that is, guidance which conforms more closely to public health interests and the science of the disease.
Safety protocols are not identical from practice to practice. We recommend that if you have not established yourself with a dentist and need to visit one, you ask what safety protocols are in place and decide whether or not you are comfortable with them. In general, dental offices are extremely safety conscious, more so now than ever. Typically, dentists and dental auxiliary staff wear protective gowns and masks, patients are screened with COVID-19 questions and are expected to wear masks until they are seated in the dental chair while the number of people in the waiting room is limited.
It’s important for all of us to visit our dentist and dental hygienist regularly, especially considering that symptoms of chronic health conditions are sometimes detected first in the dental chair. But please help your dental practice and its other patients stay safe by rescheduling your appointment if you feel ill, have tested positive for COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.
Our healthcare heroes were largely unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has given them and those who train them now, and will train them in the future, unprecedented opportunities to learn from its challenges to prepare for future healthcare crises. Let’s appreciate and thank them for being on the job every day to keep us safe and healthy.