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 two years and with continued efforts by all, we are hopeful that we will all be able to get to a better place sometime in 2022.
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 of 2020 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.
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. We are grateful for your trust and thank you for being part of the Better Living Through Dentistry family.
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated December 26, 2021
Is Better Living Through Dentistry open?
Yes, we are open and providing dental care under strict screening and infection control guidelines. Dentistry is considered essential and 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. There are even concerns about how poor oral health, particularly gum disease, may lead to complications in symptomatic COVID-19 patients.
How risky is going to the dentist during the pandemic?
Dentistry has been a leader in infection control standards in healthcare for decades and we've always been trained to assume that anyone and everyone could have an infectious disease. Appropriate use of PPE and lack of known cases of dental related transmission of COVID-19 throughout the entire duration of the pandemic indicates that going to the dentist is safe. 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.
Have all of the doctors and team members at Better Living Through Dentistry been vaccinated?
Yes, our entire team has been fully vaccinated and boosted.
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. 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. This includes taking temperatures to check for fever.
We are also screening all doctors and team members each day before they start work and all team members are being tested regularly as an extra layer of caution.
With the exception of when a patient is directly receiving dental care, patients will be asked to wear a mask at all times and maintain a 6 foot social distance from other patients. We will be staggering patient appointment arrival and departure times to assure patients are able to maintain six feet of distance from one another when in the common spaces in the dental office.
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 be asked to rinse with an antimicrobial pre-procedural mouthwash prior to starting any dental procedure.
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 high volume intra-oral and extra-oral suction equipment for use during dental procedures, sneeze barriers at the front desk, 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 and N95 respirators during patient care.
I have a scheduled appointment coming up, how should I prepare?
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://forms.patientconnect365.com/5567. 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.
Under what circumstances must I postpone an upcoming dental appointment?
To protect all of our patients and team members, especially since some have infants at home, fragile elders to care for, and may be immunocompromised themselves, we ask for your cooperation in keeping everyone as safe and healthy as possible by postponing your dental appointment under the following circumstances, even if it's inconvenient.
If you have experienced any cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms like a runny nose, cough, fever, chills, unexplained muscle aches or headaches, vomiting or diarrhea, or loss of taste or smell, we will need to postpone your dental appointment until at least 10 days have elapsed since the onset of your symptoms and at least 3 days have passed since the symptoms have gone away. Even if it turns out to just be a cold, we still don't want anyone else to catch it.
If you or anyone in your household has had an exposure or close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or had any of the above cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms, we will need to postpone your appointment to 14 days beyond the date of last exposure. We ask that all patients respect these precautions even if they have been vaccinated and/or boosted, have not developed symptoms, and even if they have had a negative COVID-19 tests.
Should I get a COVID-19 test before my dental appointment?
Because test results are not completely reliable, especially within the first 5 days of infection and in people without symptoms, and should be taken multiple times several days apart to improve confidence, we cannot rely on negative test results alone to clear a patient for a dental appointment. However, getting tested prior to your appointment can add an extra layer of caution, but we must still use the above screening criteria and postpone a dental appointment for at least 10 days if anyone has had a possible exposure or has had any cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms, even if they have received a negative COVID-19 test. Of course, if you do take a test and receive positive results, please contact our office to postpone your dental appointment.