How to Ensure Patients are Keeping Up with Dental Hygiene Throughout the Pandemic

by Kate Sheppard

The pandemic has affected everyone around the world in one way or another, and we’ve all had to make changes to adapt to this new normal. For many of us, staying indoors more and limiting the locations we visit has been part of our efforts to stay safe. But the impact of this is that necessary tasks such as regular dental check-ups can fall to the wayside. 

 The way in which dental practices take care of their patients needs to adapt to these concerns so that people feel safe visiting their local dental practice as they normally would. Here’s how to make sure patients are staying on top of their dental hygiene throughout the pandemic. 

Sanitation needs to be even more of a priority

If sanitation was a priority before, now it needs to be considered ten-fold since patients are not only more discerning but also more anxious about such environments. 

Gaps need to be made between appointments to give staff the chance to completely disinfect the operatory after each patient has been seen, to prevent the spread of bacteria and give patients the confidence to attend their appointments without worry. 

While this will mean that dental professionals will see fewer people in a day, it’s a necessary step to keep surgeries safe and able to stay open. 

Help patients take preventative measures 

While patients should retain their biannual dental visits throughout the pandemic, it’s also vital that they keep up with dental care between visits too. In addition to cleaning twice a day and flossing, remind patients to wash their hands before carrying out dental care to avoid spreading bacteria from their hands to their mouth. 

Providing patients with the option of prescription toothpastes, mouth rinses and similar products can also help them to protect their smiles in between dental visits, keeping infections and bacteria at bay. 

Upgrade pre-appointment questionnaires 

Prior to any patients coming in, have them fill out a medical history form that should also include COVID-19 specific questions so you can carry out a risk assessment for each and every patient who walks through the door. It also prevents any vulnerable or high-risk patients coming into contact with someone who could have symptoms. 

 Ask patients to confirm that they’ve not experienced any symptoms and that they’ve not tested positive. Staff should also be testing regularly to confirm they’ve not contracted COVID-19 at any point before seeing patients. These measures will show to patients that you’re taking their safety seriously and that they’re as safe as possible during their appointments.

Reinforce the message of thorough cleaning

Patients are so focused on washing their hands to prevent the spread of infection, but that level of care also needs to be transferred to dental hygiene too. In keeping teeth and gums clean, patients can prevent the need to visit dentists to fix problems, keeping appointments a form of maintenance rather than an emergency. 

 Dental professionals need to reinforce the message of staying on top of cleaning twice a day, flossing at least once per day, and using mouthwash to remove any leftover particles. Patients should also be reminded to brush their tongue when cleaning their teeth to remove bacteria and maintain a healthy mouth. 

Offer virtual appointments

Telehealth, or telemedicine, is a solution to the issue of patients not being able to come into the surgery, such as if they are isolating or living with someone who has tested positive. 

Using high-definition video conferencing software, you’ll be able to talk face-to-face with a patient, share photos or show your symptoms to staff, and pay online securely for appointments. It’s a convenient way of providing initial consultations to ensure that patients are still keeping up with their dental care without putting their, or your, health at risk. 

Final thoughts

Patients need to take care of their dental hygiene in order to prevent infections and damage to their teeth and gums. But there’s no replacement for the care and treatment that a professional provides. Throughout the pandemic, the guidance has understandably changed continually, and while we’re heading back to normality, the fact remains that we still need to be cautious. 

 From offering alternatives to in-person appointments to making sure that those who do come in can feel confident doing so, maintaining strict checks before anyone comes into the operatory and providing ongoing education, dental appointments can help patients maintain healthy teeth during the pandemic and beyond. 

About the Author

Kate Sheppard is a mum of two, who is passionate about sharing advice on topics related to healthcare and parenting.