Omicron Variant & Oral Health: Should You Skip Your Dentist’s Appointment?

Omicron Variant & Oral Health: Should You Skip Your Dentist’s Appointment?
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Omicron Variant & Oral Health: Should You Skip Your Dentist’s Appointment?Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Omicron, Dentistry & Oral Health
  2. Should You Skip the Dentist?
  3. New Safety Requirements
  4. References

Since its discovery in late 2021, the COVID-19 Omicron variant has spread rapidly and caused havoc in many dental facilities as they try to restore services.

While we still don’t know everything about the strain, here’s what we do know:

  • Spreads: more quickly than the other COVID-19 variants. You can infect other people even when you’re vaccinated.
  • Illness: is less severe than the other COVID-19 variants. However, some cases are severe and may need hospitalization.
  • Symptoms: has the same symptoms as the other COVID-19 variants. However, the severity of the symptoms will depend on other factors, such as your age.

How Omicron Is Affecting Dentistry and Oral Health

Omicron has hurt the dentistry and oral health industry. Even before the omicron variant, about 75.9 percent of dentists had at some point during the pandemic stopped their practice because of the potential spread of COVID-19 in their offices.

Typically, you will get the virus if you come into contact with an infected person’s droplets. And it is more likely to happen if you are in close contact with such a person. Dental treatments require you to be close to the dentist, and the procedures are also aerosol-generating.

Such risks prompted a World Health Organization (WHO) declaration that dentists stop providing dental treatment during the pandemic, limited to emergency complaints.

Should You Skip Your Dental Appointment Because of Omicron?

While dental care is necessary, the declaration by the WHO did alarm many people about making a trip to the dentist. That’s because a visit to the dental chair places you in close contact with other people, and various dental procedures can induce aerosol production. These conditions are perfect for spreading the Omicron variant.

However, proper precautions can allow you to keep your dental appointments in spite of Omicron. 

The American Dental Association and the CDC have placed measures that will mitigate the spread of the virus during your dental visits, including:

  • Air filtration devices that limit the spread of aerosols
  • Standard precautions such as hand washing before any dental procedure
  • Reduced the number of health providers tending to you 
  • Clean the surfaces with EPA approved disinfectants
  • Space out the dental appointments
  • Take X-rays of your oral cavity externally rather than internally

If you test positive for the virus, postpone the appointment until you test negative. You should also inform your dentist if you present with COVID-19 symptoms within 14 days after your dental visit.

New Requirements for Dentists Safety

Like other health professionals, dentists are at a high risk of contracting the virus. That’s why health organizations have come up with requirements to protect dentists in their places of work, which may change depending on the level of community transmission:

  • Use of teledenistry
  • Use of personal protective equipment
  • Updated safety precautions
Teledentistry
For non-emergency cases, the dentist can make dental appointments with their patients online. This limits direct contact, reducing the chances of both of you contracting the virus.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPEs are an essential piece of clothing that helps minimize the spread of infections. Dentists working in high-risk areas or those with COVID-19 patients should use PPEs when providing dental care. Typically, a complete PPE ensemble will consist of:

  • Gloves
  • Gown
  • Facemask (preferably an N95 mask)
  • Eye protection equipment
Safe Dental Practices
Dentists should take precautionary measures when handling patients’ blood or saliva. They should wash their hands well after tending to a patient and before touching their own faces, mouths, or eyes.

References

Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know. (Feb 2022). (February 2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Dental practice closure during the first wave of COVID-19 and associated professional, practice and structural determinants: a multi-country survey. (May 2021). BMC Oral Health.

Preventing the spread of the coronavirus. (February 2022). Harvard Health Publishing.

Impact of COVID-19 on Dentistry. (2021). National Library of Medicine.

COVID-19: Present and Future Challenges for Dental Practice. (April 2020). National Library of Medicine.

COVID-19 and Dentistry: Challenges and Opportunities for Providing Safe Care. (February 2022). Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Air filtration devices could make appointments safer during the pandemic. (November 2021). The University of Minnesota.

Hazard Recognition. (May 2021). Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

Effectiveness and Recommendations for the Use of Dental Masks in the Prevention of COVID-19. (July 2020). National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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