The Chicago Dental Society (CDS) has launched its #SAFESMILES public awareness campaign to reinforce public confidence in the safety of dental practices and emphasize the importance of maintaining good oral health.
Dentists are extremely experienced and well equipped to prevent the spread of disease, the CDS said, and are implementing additional safety measures to protect patients and staff in the era of COVID-19.
“It is more important than ever to take care of your health and, as dentists, we know that good oral health is essential to your overall health,” said CDS president Dr. Terri Tiersky.
“As patients return to the dental office, they may notice that things look different than the last time they were there, and that’s a good thing. These enhanced safety measures and modifications have been made with their health, safety, and comfort in mind,” Tiersky said.
The CDS noted the changes that patients can expect to see, including:
- The removal of magazines, toys, remotes, and other communal items in the waiting room
- Increased cleaning protocols in treatment rooms between patients
- Adjusted waiting room layouts to accommodate social distancing
- Increased personal protective equipment
- Health screenings prior to their appointment and when they arrive on site
CDS member dentists also are closely following current clinical guidance from federal, state, and local authorities, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the ADA, to make necessary adjustments.
According to the ADA, 97% of dental offices were open for elective care as of June 15, whereas only 3% were open in early April. Total patient volume was down more than 90% in April, but now the ADA says that nearly 50% of dentists report that they are back to 75% or more of what a typical week in their practice looks like.
While patient concerns about safety are understandable, the CDS said, delaying necessary or routine dental care can pose an even greater risk to patients’ overall health. Research has proven that there is a direct connection between oral health and whole body health, with poor oral health associated with oral cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other issues.
The CDS said that its member dentists want to stress to the public what they already know well—that dental offices are safe and that dentists and staff are highly experienced infection control experts who are skillfully navigating enhanced protocols during the pandemic.