Updated on February 22, 2024
6 min read

What To Know: Dentist Appointments and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

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The CDC, COVID-19, and Dental Care

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released evolving recommendations for healthcare facilities depending on local and state transmission of COVID-19 and its variants. 

While many dental offices were closed during the pandemic’s peak, they are running as normal today. 

Most dental practices have implemented comprehensive procedures to protect you, the dentist, the dental team, and other patients from the spread of COVID-19. 

girl putting on mask outside

Is It Safe to Visit the Dentist’s Office? 

Yes, it is safe to visit your dentist’s office. Especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, infection control is a top priority in the dental industry. Every office should have an appointed infection control coordinator (ICC) responsible for ensuring that all safety protocols are in place to prevent the spread of infection. 

How do you know if your dental office is safe? Look for the following practices to gain insight into how seriously your dental office takes infection control:

  • Hand hygiene — Dental clinicians should use alcohol-based hand rubs or handwashing with soap and water for at least 15 seconds before putting on their gloves and after removing them.
  • Personal protective equipment — Dental staff may wear more PPE than usual. They should wear gowns, gloves, and masks in the operatory and avoid wearing them around the office to prevent cross-contamination. 
  • Disinfecting — Your dentist’s office should disinfect all surfaces and tools regularly.
  • Closed packages — The tray with necessary supplies should be set up before you enter. All instruments should be wrapped in a sterile bag or unopened packaging to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Health assessments — The office may call you before your appointment to ask about your health, recent travel, and your exposure to COVID-19. They may also check your temperature and other symptoms upon your arrival.

Should I Postpone Dental Treatments Due to COVID-19?

During the pandemic’s peak, the ADA recommended that dentists postpone elective dental procedures to prioritize emergency dental care.1 Patients are now safe to undergo elective dental procedures at their convenience. 

Regardless, some people in high-risk groups are still uncomfortable with going to the dentist. 

While it is no longer necessary to avoid the dentist’s office, if you require any of the following oral health procedures, treatment is not urgent and can be postponed:

Emergency Dental Treatment and COVID-19

The ADA says a person should seek immediate treatment if a dental condition is life-threatening, causes severe pain, or has a high risk of infection. 

If you have any of the following oral health conditions, immediate treatment may be necessary:

Should I Cancel My Dental Appointment If I’ve Been Exposed to COVID-19? 

COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets released when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks, making the spread risk especially high in a dentist’s office. 

Contact your dental office before your appointment if: 

  • You have pre-existing conditions that put you at risk for severe COVID-19 complications
  • You are not feeling well
  • You have been exposed to somebody with COVID-19 within 14 days of your appointment

Are There Alternatives to Visiting a Dental Office?

If you are nervous about visiting the dentist because of COVID-19, you can either set up a teledentistry appointment or wait until you are comfortable. 

Additionally, taking proper care of your teeth can prevent a dental emergency.  


Teledentistry is a crucial strategy for managing people’s oral health while limiting close contact between the patient and practitioner to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Teledentistry encompasses electronic patient records, video, and 3D digital images for diagnosis and consultation. 

While emergency dental problems and surgeries cannot be controlled through telemedicine, teledentistry is a viable alternative for patients who do not need immediate and face-to-face oral assessment.2

If you are worried about your oral health and don’t want to visit the dentist’s office, call your local dental clinic to see if they offer teledentistry services. 

Proper Oral Hygiene

The ADA recommends visiting the dentist at least once or twice yearly to maintain oral health.3 However, maintaining good oral hygiene helps prevent an emergency visit to your dentist’s office.

The best practices for optimal oral health include:4

  • Brushing your teeth twice daily (for two minutes at a time) with fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing between your teeth once daily (e.g., before brushing your teeth at night)
  • Scraping your tongue before bed
  • Not sharing a toothbrush
  • Changing your toothbrush every three months or sooner if you are sick
  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day
  • Limiting starchy or sugary food and drinks
  • Resisting unhealthy habits such as smoking, consuming alcohol, or biting fingernails

How Did COVID-19 Change the Dental Industry?

According to the ADA, 76% of dentists closed their offices to all but emergency patients during the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.5 

After receiving clearance, dental offices started re-opening and adapting their practices to address critical issues surrounding health, safety, and accessibility. Offices increased personal protective equipment (PPE) and expanded online oral health care opportunities. 

Many of the safety precautions and technologies introduced during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic are still utilized in dental offices today. 

COVID-19 Basics

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory symptoms and not require special treatment. 

However, some people, such as people with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, are more likely to develop severe illness. 

Protecting Yourself and Your Family Against COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), there are some precautions you can take to protect yourself and help stop the spread of COVID-19:6

  • Regularly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with an alcohol-based scrub or hand soap
  • Wear masks to contain droplets you breathe, cough, or sneeze out
  • Use hand sanitizer and other disinfectants
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or disposable tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Do not touch your nose, mouth, or eyes with unwashed hands 
  • Self-isolate at home if you do not feel well
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine (if possible)

Last updated on February 22, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 22, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. ADA Calls Upon Dentists to Postpone Elective Procedures.” The American Dental Association, 2020.
  2. Mahdavi et al. “Teledentistry during COVID-19 pandemic: scientometric and content analysis approach.” BMC Health Services Research, 2022.
  3. Your Top 9 Questions About Going to the Dentist—Answered!” MouthHealthy.
  4. COVID-19 Oral and Dental Care.” Illinois Department of Public Health, 2022.
  5. COVID-19 and Dentistry Timeline.” The American Dental Association, 2021.
  6. How to Protect Yourself and Others.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023.
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