What is it like to visit the dentist during lockdown?

In March 2020, dental practices in the UK were forced to close and they stayed shut until June 2020. As a result, many people did not see their dentist for their scheduled checkup, or their dental hygienist, and referrals didn’t take place.

However, since June 2020, dental practices in England have been open and accepting patients. To ensure patient safety, just like the retail sector, dental practices have had to adapt. The changes have been made based on the latest evidence and are in place to ensure they can stay open safely.

Here are some of the changes that you might see when you visit the dentists during COVID-19:

1. Changes on arrival

Before getting to the dentist, you will need to answer a few questions about how you feel. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, you will not be able to visit the dentist. If everything is ok, and you are able to book an appointment, which you can usually do on the phone or online, you should arrive on time rather than early, to reduce time spent in the waiting room. Some practices ask that you wait in your car or at the door so that you are not spending time in the waiting room or sharing space with another patient.

2. Changes whilst waiting

When you arrive at the dentist, you will likely have your temperature checked. This is to check for signs of fever. You will also be asked to sanitise your hands and to keep a face mask on whilst inside. Some surgeries spray the soles of patients’ shoes to further reduce the chance of infection. If you are asked to wait for your appointment, the waiting room may also have been reorganised to help you maintain social distancing, so shared seating may have been replaced by individually spaced chairs.

3. Changes to how your dental team works

The treatment room will be well ventilated and may have a window kept open to ensure old air can leave the room quickly. The dental team will be wearing extra protective equipment, which may look strange, but it is worn to keep you and them safe. Dental practices will be using techniques that have a lower risk of spray. If you need emergency treatment that involves high levels of spray, then your treatment might be moved to a different room. Some practices ask that you rinse your mouth for 30 seconds with a solution – for example salt and chlorine – before you sit back in the chair.

4. When leaving the dentist

You will be asked to replace your mask before going back into the reception area, and again to sanitise your hands. You will be asked to pay with a contactless card and may be asked to sign documents with your own pen. Any information about your treatment or payment plan will be sent to you via email or text, to reduce the need for paper.

Key takeaways

You might see a lot of changes when you visit the dentist during the COVID-19 pandemic but these changes have been made for the safety of patients and staff. If you have any questions or concerns about the measures that have been put in place, you could call your dental practice and they will be able to explain all the changes and reassure you.

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