The Dental Office as an Integral Part of the Healthcare System’s Response to COVID-19
As states across the country lift stay-at-home restrictions to curb the coronavirus outbreak, we understand that re-entering the world right now might be a scary idea. The number of businesses opening their doors to the general public will increase, and so will the number of people re-entering the public sphere. As a result, it will become increasingly important to think critically about which public spaces you choose to enter while trying to find our new normal.
Part of our re-entry plan for a world turned upside down by COVID-19 is to prioritize health, and oral health is a great starting point. For the last 15 years, dental and medical researchers have established a link between inflammation in the mouth and inflammation in our body, known as the oral-systemic connection. Since it was discovered that the same bacteria responsible for oral inflammation is also responsible for inflammation in the overall body, trips to the dentist’s office have been considered a crucial component in the treatment of systemic disease, 120 systemic diseases in total (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s). Now, as we face a pandemic centered around a viral disease, with one of the two main entry points in the oral cavity, our oral hygiene regimen and the dental office is more important than ever in protecting public health.
With no cleanings and no professional oversight for the last 3 months, there is a good chance you will be experiencing plaque build-up, inflammation in your gums, and possible decay in the teeth. Additionally, stress and anxiety, which is in the danger zone these days, causes grinding and clenching of teeth which wears down the enamel and hurts the supporting structures of the teeth, the gum and the bone. This is why your first visit back to the dental office is so important– to get to the oral health issues as soon as possible and get back to the healthy rituals that support our health and wellness.
If we look at the facts, the dentist’s office is the safest public place you can be right now. Dentists understand the threat posed by infectious diseases, and have been experts in barrier control for more than 30 years, since the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Dentistry has embraced the use of PPE to reduce the risk of disease transmission due to cross contamination and practiced infection control, and we are really good at it. Dental offices are gearing up to protect themselves and their patients from coronavirus by taking on the most extreme barrier control methods possible and we screen our patients very carefully with a goal of creating the safest haven possible. ADA guidelines, social distancing, new technology and elevated PPE are all steps that the dental team at JBL New York City are taking to protect our patients and our team.
Finally, as the world aims to safely re-open, the dental office must be an integral part of our healthcare system’s response to COVID-19. The clearest path to a new normal hinges on our capacity to test our community, quarantine infected individuals, and carry out contract tracing to contain the spread. Although testing efforts in the United States have increased since the start of the pandemic, gaps still exist in accounting for the viral status of most Americans. It is our hope that dental offices across the country can be utilized in order to increase the rate of testing in controlled, safe, and reputable environments. As the 140,000 dental offices begin to open their doors in the United States, we have the opportunity to test our entire patient population and all of our team. If 100,000 dental offices tested just 10 patients a day for viral particles and antibodies, we could conduct 1 million tests a day. This would undoubtedly help fill the gap in testing and allow our country to re-open safely. It is our intention to offer both rapid antibody tests as well as viral tests available to all of our patients and team in the upcoming months, please stay tuned.
Our personal goal is to make our practice at 923 5th to be a safe haven: the safest place possible for both our patients and our team. We look forward to seeing the smiling faces of all of our patients, both existing and new, at our practice. Together, we will win this war against COVID-19.
Peng, X., Xu, X., Li, Y. et al. Transmission routes of 2019-nCoV and controls in dental practice. Int J Oral Sci 12, 9 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41368-020-0075-9