COVID-19 and Dental Appointments
We hope this communication finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. Our communities have been through a lot over the last many months and with continued efforts, we are hopeful that we will all be able to return to our normal lives and routines at some point in the not-so-distant future.
Dr. Lee has been serving on the California Dental Association's COVID-19 Clinical Care Work Group that has been reviewing and evaluating current research in order to establish guidance, recommendations, and resources to assure the health and safety of patients and dental team members in dental practices across the state. While most dental offices limited care to emergencies in the first months of the pandemic in order to encourage sheltering-in-place and conservation of PPE for frontline providers, in May the California Department of Public Health, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The City and County of San Francisco all issued guidelines for dentistry’s return to routine and preventive care.
You will notice changes in our office like new patient screening protocols, staggered appointment times to ensure social distancing, HEPA 13 air purification units, and additional PPE worn by our team members. However, one thing remains the same: our dedication to your health and safety. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been no COVID-19 clusters associated with dental care. We are committed to continuing to follow the most stringent and up-to-date infection control guidelines to keep our patients safe from all transmissible diseases, COVID-19 included.
At this time we ask for your patience as we are working to reschedule the backlog of appointments that were temporarily canceled during the spring. For those of you with upcoming appointments, we will be reaching out to you as well and ask for your flexibility as we will need to adjust appointment dates and times to limit the number of patients in our facility in order to assure adequate social distancing.
Please read the below Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for more information about appointments, protocols, and the latest state and local directives regarding dental care. Since these local ordinances have been known to change, we will continue to update you as necessary.
We look forward to seeing you again soon and are happy to answer any questions you may have. And most of all, thank you for being part of the Better Living Through Dentistry family. We value your trust and loyalty and look forward to welcoming you back to our office.
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated September 19, 2020
Is Better Living Through Dentistry open?
We have always been open for emergency dental needs, but as of mid-May, we are now open for all dental care including routine and preventive care. Our normal capacity for patient care has been somewhat reduced due to the need to extend appointment times for screening purposes and in order to observe social distancing within our small practice space, however we have recently expanded our days and hours to accommodate our patient's needs.
How risky is going to the dentist during the pandemic?
While dental treatment involves patients and dental team members working in close proximity to one another, dentistry has been a leader in infection control standards in healthcare for decades and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 transmission due to dental treatment.
This is being attributed to dentistry's use of appropriate PPE and the fact that dentistry has always taken the approach that anyone and everyone could have an infectious disease. Even before the pandemic, dentistry was subject to the most rigorous infection control regulations and sterilization requirements. Additionally, all dental personnel are required to undergo regular infection control training and all of our team members have had additional training regarding prevention of COVID-19 transmission.
What else is Better Living Through Dentistry doing to keep everyone safe in the dental office?
Our first goal is to eliminate, as much as possible, the chance of anyone with known or suspected COVID-19 from entering our office or receiving dental care in our practice rather than in a more appropriate hospital setting. Therefore, we are screening all patients by phone prior to their appointment and then again once they arrive for their appointment before they enter the practice. We are also required to screen all personnel before they are allowed to come to work each day and our team members have all recently been tested for COVID-19. Additionally, we will take the temperature of all patients and dental team members prior to their entering the practice.
With the exception of when a patient is directly receiving dental care, patients will be asked to wear a mask at all times when in the facility and maintain a 6 foot social distance from other patients. We will be staggering patient appointment arrival and departure times in order to assure patients are able to maintain the 6 foot distance from one another when entering and exiting the practice and when in the front office area and hallway.
Patients will also be asked to use hand sanitizer provided at the front desk and wash their hands upon entering the treatment room. Patients will also be asked to rinse with peroxide-based mouthwash prior to starting any dental procedure since peroxide kills the virus that causes COVID-19.
For the time being we will also be adapting dental treatment to minimize the use of dental instruments and equipment that may create a mist of water in or around a patient’s mouth that could spread saliva or respiratory droplets to the dental providers. If the use of such equipment is necessary, we will be using high volume aerosol suctions and barriers like rubber dams when appropriate for certain procedures.
Additionally, our facility has been outfitted with sneeze barriers and HEPA 13 air purification units in all treatment rooms. And of course we are using high-level hospital-grade surface disinfectants that are approved for killing the virus that causes COVID-19. All dental team members are wearing appropriate PPE including face shields with surgical masks or N95 respirators depending on the procedure type.
Should I get a cleaning and check-up?
Yes, all patients are encouraged resume necessary preventive and diagnostic dental care to avoid dental infections, emergencies, or the worsening of existing dental conditions like dental decay and gum disease. Both the California Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Department of Health have provided detailed guidelines regarding the safe delivery of routine and preventive dental care. For the time being, we are providing cleanings using traditional hand scaling instruments, rather than ultrasonic scaling devices, in order to limit the possible spread of saliva and respiratory droplets.
I have a scheduled appointment coming up, how should I prepare?
Please confirm your appointment when you receive your reminder email, text, or phone call. Please be aware that we may need to adjust the date and time of your appointment in order to stagger patient arrival times for appointments and to limit the number of patients in the office at one time in order to facilitate social distancing protocols.
The City and County of San Francisco is currently requiring that all dental offices screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms several days in advance of any dental appointment either by phone or online and then again in person upon arrival for the appointment. Please help us make this process go as smoothly as possible by responding to any email, text, or phone call requests for screening at least two days in advance of your appointment.
If you have an upcoming appointment you may access the screening form and submit it securely using this link: https://rwl.io/2ZYwNwb. If you prefer to complete the screening by phone, please call our office at 415-731-9311 between 8 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday several days prior to your appointment.
If you have any COVID-19 symptoms like a fever, cough, chills, unexplained muscle aches or headaches, a runny nose, or diarrhea, please call our office immediately to postpone your dental appointment for at least two weeks after symptoms have resolved or until you have received two negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart.
We also ask that you postpone your visit by 14 days if you have recently traveled by plane or have congregated with large groups of people not in your immediate household while not observing mask and social distancing recommendations.
Do I have to get a COVID-19 test before my dental appointment?
The San Francisco Department of Public Health strongly recommends, but does not require, patients to consider getting a COVID-19 test up to 7 days prior to certain types of dental procedures like fillings and crowns that may involve the use of instruments like the high speed dental drill that may incorporate a patient’s saliva or respiratory droplets into the aerosol mist in or around a patient's mouth and in close proximity to the dentist, hygienist, or dental assistant dental providing care.
If you undergo a test and receive positive results, please contact our office to postpone your dental appointment.
We have found that it’s faster and more convenient to get a free drive-through virus test by pre-registering online at https://sf.gov/get-tested-covid-19-citytestsf rather than getting tested through most physicians offices. Contrary to the instructions on the City Test SF home page, anyone can register for a free drive through test, you no longer have to have COVID-19 symptoms or be an essential healthcare worker to get a test. Results are usually made available to you online or via text 24-48 hours after your test.