Your Next Dentist Appointment Is Going To Be Different. Here's What You Should Know

Most dental offices across the country shut down for non-essential procedures due to COVID-19, per the recommendation of the American Dental Association (ADA). Now, with the country slowly re-opening, you may be thinking about scheduling a missed or overdue appointment — and also wondering just how safe you'll be in the dentist's chair.

While no one looks forward to experiencing the drill and other instruments that look like torture devices (30 to 40 million Americans have a fear of the dentist's office, according to the Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center, via Carrington College), the added risk of being exposed to COVID-19 is raising people's anxiety even more, per a report published by JAMA: Internal Medicine.

So, how safe is it? Dental offices pose a unique risk because "dentists in particular often create vaporized aerosols as they work in patient's mouths, and infectious droplets like these can quickly spread throughout enclosed spaces like an operating room," reports Good Housekeeping. But there is good news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the ADA have issued guidelines for dental offices that can help significantly reduce your risk.

The new normal at the dentist

Be sure to bring your tablet and a car charger, because you'll likely be waiting in your vehicle if you show up early, or the office isn't ready for your appointment. "Doctor's offices are limiting the number of people in the office at one time by spreading out appointments, asking patients to wait outside or in their car after checking in, [and] spreading out waiting room chairs," reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

You'll also need to have a mask with you, as you'll be asked to wear it before, and immediately after your procedure. It may sound silly, as you clearly can't wear it during the entire visit, but the motive is minimizing risk. And don't be shocked if your dentist and dental hygienist look like extras from a disaster movie in full personal protective equipment, including professional grade face shields, which create a "low risk" for disease transmission, per the ADA.

Try to arrive alone, as the CDC is recommending, "that the patient limit the number of visitors accompanying the patient to the dental appointment to only those people who are necessary." And expect to have your temperature taken before you're even allowed inside, and to be asked if you've been experiencing any symptoms that are related to COVID-19, such as a cough.

These steps, combined with the usual social distancing when possible, and the dental office constantly disinfecting shared surfaces, mean you can feel as comfortable as possible to make that appointment.