Returning to the dentist: what to expect

By the Delta Dental Institute

As states continue to reopen and lift restrictions, dental offices are resuming regular appointments and elective procedures—though guidance and limitations vary by state. A healthy smile is a critical part of overall health, and maintaining good oral health care is important whether you're staying home or heading in to see your dentist. As both patients and dentists navigate the process of safely reopening, the Delta Dental Institute is committed to providing accurate information and useful resources in line with the most recent American Dental Association (ADA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

Here are answers to a few common questions about what to expect when returning to the dentist—and how to take good care of your oral health in the meantime:

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    What should I do to prepare for my dental visit?

Your dentist will let you know ahead of your appointment if there's anything you need to do. You may be asked via telephone screening if you have been experiencing a fever or other symptoms, or if you have had recent contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, appointments may be prioritized based on availability and need, as dentists work through a backlog of requests.

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    What should I expect when I arrive at my appointment?

Dental offices are taking additional precautions to protect you, other patients, and staff, and they will inform you of any changes you should be aware of before arriving. Some of these changes may include limiting the number of patients in the office at one time, requesting that patients wear a mask and have their temperature taken, and wearing additional protective equipment during procedures, which may be modified to reduce aerosol creation.

Patients can also take action to stay safe. Limit the number of visitors accompanying you to your appointment and reschedule if you feel ill or have been in recent contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

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    How can I find out what my state's policy is on dental procedures?

For information on your state's specific guidance, visit your local Delta Dental company webpage or see the ADA's state-by-state map tool.

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    What should I do if I have a dental emergency?

Dental emergencies are potentially life-threatening conditions like uncontrolled bleeding, trauma to the face, or infections with facial or mouth swelling that could affect the airway and breathing. While guidance may vary state-by-state on non-emergency dental visits, dental emergencies must be addressed. Call your dentist immediately to determine the best course of action. If your dentist's office is closed, or if you do not have a dentist, consider visiting your state government's COVID-19 website to identify emergency care locations.

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    What can I do to maintain my oral health until my next appointment?

Developing positive oral health habits and a routine while at home will benefit your long-term health. Keep up your oral hygiene between appointments by brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months and be aware of bad habits like using your teeth to open packages.



The Delta Dental Institute will continue to share resources and news related to oral health during COVID-19 on Facebook and Twitter.