Is It Safe to Take My Child to the Dentist During COVID?

The Tooth Ferry is open for all routine dental care! In addition to our usual infection control protocols, we’re excited to tell you about additional changes we’ve made to help keep you and your family safe.

We know you, as a parent, have a lot of questions about the safety of visiting the dentist with the presence of COVID-19 in our community. Below you’ll find information regarding coronavirus exposure risk as related to pediatric dentistry; we hope it brings you clarity, and puts your mind at ease when planning your next visit to The Tooth Ferry.

Reasons Why It’s Safe to Bring Your Child to the Dentist During COVID

To answer the most pressing question on everyone’s mind: yes, it is safe to bring your child to the dentist during COVID. To the current date, there has not been a documented case of COVID transmission being traced to a dental office. This may be evidence that, through rigorous infection control protocols, dentists may have limited or eliminated the chance that viral particles that would be infective to other patients are being produced and floating in office air.

1. Fewer to No Aerosols Used in Pediatric Dentists’ Offices

It is important to first highlight the ways in which pediatric dentistry is very different from adult dental care. Adult dental care involves many more procedures per day that generate aerosols (tiny particles of blood and saliva that are so small they remain floating, suspended in the air after the dental procedure) than pediatric dental care. One of these procedures used frequently in adult care is a “deep cleaning” using an ultrasonic scaler.

Most children do NOT require these “deep cleanings” (“scraping” of tartar accumulated at and below the gum line using an ultrasonic scaler). In contrast to adult care, dental cleanings in the pediatric setting are performed with the use of gritty toothpaste and a rubberized spinning cup (called a prophy cup) or, if the child is very young, the cleaning is performed using only a toothbrush. If no air is sprayed from our air/water syringe while cleaning, the use of a prophy cup or toothbrush does NOT produce aerosols. This means that for the majority of our patients who are being seen for routine check-ups and cleanings, no aerosolized particles are being generated.

This is of note because aerosolized particles could theoretically carry the virus in office air, even after a patient has left the office. It is important to note, though, that the person from whom those particles were generated would need to be infected with COVID in order for those particles to be a risk to anyone else. Even if a person with an active COVID infection had an aerosolizing dental procedure in the dental office setting, it is not known if the aerosolized particles produced during that procedure would be in a large enough quantity to be infective to others. 

Closed procedure room at The Tooth Ferry Pediatric Dentistry

Currently, The Tooth Ferry Pediatric Dentistry is not using ultrasonic scalers or air spray during dental cleanings — meaning these procedures are AEROSOL FREE! If your child must undergo an aerosolizing procedure (such as fillings and crowns), we have taken the following additional precautions: the doctor and assistant wear N95 masks and face shields, disposable gowns and surgical caps. The procedure is performed in our closed treatment room, so as to contain any aerosolized particles as they are generated. Additionally, we allow 40 minutes after the end of the procedure before the next patient appointment. This allows all of the air in the office to fully cycle through our newly upgraded HEPA air filters, which are certified to capture 99.97% of all particles in air measuring 0.3 microns in diameter (the Most Penetrating Particle Size- MPPS). The Novel Coronavirus measures 0.125 microns in diameter, but the aerosolized droplets that it travels within measure about 1 micron in diameter, which means it is filtered out by the upgraded HEPA filters. In addition to our upgraded HEPA filters, we have added Molekule air filtration to our waiting room. This PECO filtration filters out viral particles 1000x smaller than standard HEPA filters.

2. Robust Screening Practices

Pediatric dentists have instituted some changes to help keep patients, staff, and doctors safe and healthy. At The Tooth Ferry, we have limited our office personnel to only two assistants and the doctor, who both undergo temperature checks and COVID screening each morning.

Everyone coming to the office for a visit (the child/children and accompanying adult(s)) are asked to undergo temperature checks, respond to a COVID screening questionnaire, perform hand hygiene and to wear masks (except when actively receiving dental care). We are following the recommendations from the Washington state DOH regarding masks for children: No mask recommended for children under the age of 2; masks recommended for children age 2-4 and mask required for children age 5 and older.

In addition to all of our usual rigorous infection control protocols, we have added the additional precaution of using a disposable gown between patient cleanings and dental treatment. This eliminates the risk of splatter (droplet) transfer between patients when they have dental treatment or fillings. 

3. Social Distancing at The Tooth Ferry Pediatric Dentistry

We are only seeing ONE family at a time in the office, following the strictest social distancing guidelines we could achieve while still providing care. You won’t encounter anyone other than the doctor and her two assistants at your visit! The whole office is dedicated to you and your family to help limit your contact with other people. This is not typical of pediatric dentists, but we have reduced our patient care schedule to enable us to provide the ultimate socially distanced dental visit as recommended by the CDC.

Additionally, all high-touch items — such as books, games, toys, magazines, and video game controllers — have been removed from the office. Patients can still enjoy a TV show or movie on the TV screen mounted above the dental chair while they have their dental treatment or cleaning.  

What to Expect at the Dentist During COVID

Prior to your child’s appointment, you will be asked a series of questions to help ensure that you and your child are not experiencing any symptoms of COVID infection and that you don’t have risk factors for recent exposure. You and your child will have your temperatures taken prior to your appointment, you’ll be asked to wash or sanitize your hands upon entering the office, and you and your child will be asked to wear a mask in accordance with recommendations set forth by the department of health (no masks for children under age 2, mask encouraged for children age 2-4, and mask required for children over age 5). Because we’ve removed all high-touch items from the office, we encourage bringing a favorite toy or comfort item from home for younger children.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, or would like further explanation of any of the points covered in this post, please don’t hesitate to contact us by calling (206) 486-7260 or submitting the form below! We understand how stressful decisions can be right now, and our team strives to make each trip to the dentist during COVID as pleasant as possible for both parent and child.

Dr. Posthuma and Carrie smile under their protective masks during COVID-19

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