In short, yes—here's why.

By Lauren Wellbank
December 22, 2020
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With COVID-19 cases on the rise, many Americans are avoiding any non-urgent medical visits in an attempt to limit their potential to exposure to the virus. Many medical professionals, however, have actually advised against this, as the risks of putting off important well-visits can be detrimental to your health. Regardless of these recommendations, many still feel especially nervous about visiting their dentist during the pandemic—especially since it's impossible to remain masked or six feet apart during an exam. Ahead, we spoke with two dental professionals to find out if scheduling a cleaning is safe, and you really need to know about seeing your dentist during the pandemic.

Credit: Getty / Luis Alvarez

Regular dental visits are important.

Even if you are not experiencing dental issues, routine check-ups are essential for preventing and treating oral diseases, explains Dr. Greg Gelfand, a cosmetic dentist in New York City. "Even something as seemingly futile as a cleaning is important to your overall health, as there is a direct correlation between gum disease and diabetes and heart disease," he explains.

Cleanings actually help bolster your immune system.

Not only is it safe to go to the dentist, but it's actually critical to your immune system, says Dr. Gerry Curatola, a dental surgeon with Rejuvenation Health and Rejuvenation Dentistry. "The most important defense against COVID-19 is your immune system, and studies have shown that an unhealthy mouth seriously compromises it, actually putting you more at risk."

Gum disease is on the rise.

Dr. Curatola says another reason to prioritize a visit to your dentist during the pandemic comes down to a completely new issue that has arisen this year. "We are seeing a condition known as 'mask mouth'," he explains. "This is an increase in gum disease, tooth decay, bad breath, and dry mouth from wearing a mask for extended periods." His office has been helping patients fight this ailment while keeping them safe during this period of mandatory and essential mask wearing.

Safety protocols are in place.

Dental professionals have traditionally been trained as infection control specialists, Dr. Gelfand explains, which means that, even when the world isn't battling a pandemic, your dentist and his team are following strict sanitary protocols and operating with the utmost caution. He or she is likely following best practices sanctioned by the American Dental Association, and taking additional precautions to protect themselves and their patients. "Dentists are investing in significantly more PPE and many are wearing surgical gowns, caps, and shields, in addition to surgical or N95 masks," Dr. Gelfand continues. "Routine testing for all staff is also becoming more common and personnel are encouraged to stay home if they are exhibiting any symptoms." And if you are still hesitant? Consider scheduling a virtual consultation, says Dr. Gelfand—you can also use them to help address any safety concerns before going in for a visit. 

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