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What to expect at the dentist's office

A girl in a dentist's chair smiles at a dentist or hygienist.

If there's one place where social distancing would be hard, it's at your dentist's office. It's impossible for your hygienist to clean your teeth or for your dentist to fill a cavity while staying 6 feet away from you.

That's why things may look a little different at your next visit, notes the American Dental Association. Dentists' offices are working hard to reduce the risk for spreading COVID-19 while still offering much-needed services.

What's changing?

You may notice the first change before your appointment even starts. Your dentist's staff may contact you a day or so ahead of time to ask you some questions about your current health. This is to make sure you don't have any symptoms of COVID-19. You may be asked these questions again when you arrive. And staff may also check you for a fever.

Chances are you'll be asked to limit how many people you bring along with you to your visit. This is to avoid crowding in the waiting room.

While you're waiting for your appointment to start, you may notice that magazines, toys and other shareable items have been taken out of the waiting area. Chairs may also be spaced 6 feet apart to help people distance.

You'll likely be asked to wear a mask too. Keep it on until your hygienist says it's OK to remove it.

During your checkup, your dentist and hygienist may wear different protective gear than they've worn in the past. That might include masks, gowns, gloves, face shields and goggles. Frequently touched items like computer keyboards and light controls may have disposable covers to make them easier to clean.

Be sure to notify your dentist's office if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 within two days of your visit. You may have had the virus at the time of your visit. Anyone who had contact with you may be at risk of getting sick.

Should you delay care?

If COVID-19 is very active in your area, your dentist may ask you to delay routine care until it's safer. And if you're sick, you should cancel your visit and call your doctor if you suspect COVID-19. Otherwise, keeping up with regular checkups is important to your health—and can keep little problems from becoming big ones.

Need to brush up on some dental care basics? Check out these tips.

Reviewed 10/20/2020

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