How to Handle Kids' Dentistry and COVID-19
February is Pediatric Dentistry Month
By Alison Jackson
Early every morning, before anyone else is in the office, I sit at my computer and review the chart of every patient I will be seeing that day. After each visit, I make notes about what we did, what we talked about and what we will do next time. Today, one of my notes read, “treated with silver diamine fluoride, reviewed hygiene routine, re-evaluate in 6 months after pandemic.” In hindsight, that was wishful thinking. Ten months later, pediatric dentists in our area have adjusted to this new normal. We’ve secured our offices and we’ve identified unique risks to oral health during these times. Prevention is our strongest ally and now it is more important than ever.
As time passes, we’ve noticed some patterns developing as a result of the stay-at-home orders and the changes in our normal schedules. Unfortunately, the result is an apparent increase in the number of cavities we are seeing. Routines have been disrupted. We don’t necessarily wake up and brush before we leave the house every morning anymore. Sometimes stress can lead to nighttime behaviors like grinding or clenching that are bad for our mouths and face muscles. Snacking is easier and more prevalent and we are tending to eat less healthy foods because of convenience and comfort. Further, we do not know how the COVID-19 disease itself might affect our mouth and teeth. We are finding that the corona virus disruptive on every level. We are in new territory, as parents. You are not alone.
Pediatric dentists have always emphasized the importance of prevention. Most of the problems we are seeing can be mitigated with a renewed dedication to all the things we already know and practice. Re-establish the habit of brushing after breakfast, before online school starts so you can flash your smile on Zoom. Grab an apple and skip the sweet treats. Try to stay under 20 g of added sugar per day. Drink lots of water and brush and floss after dinner. Try to relax and read a book before bed and put the screens down. Re-establishing these habits can make a big difference over time. Pediatric dentists are here to help you and your child. Call us if your child is overdue for a check- up or if you have questions and concerns.
If you’ve been to your dentist since the beginning of the pandemic, you will have already seen the obvious changes we’ve all adopted to keep everyone safe. We have reduced the number of daily patients we see to comply with social distancing. Our waiting rooms are closed and sadly, all the fun games, toys and magazines have been stored away. Airflow has been assessed,HEPA filters, oral suction devices and barriers installed. One thing we won’t miss is having to greet patients looking like astronauts in our N95 masks, shields, head caps, gowns and booties. We know we look scary! However, these procedural changes have been successful in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in dental offices. If you are reluctant to come in and see us, that’s okay, too. Sometimes we can schedule a teledentistry appointment to answer basic questions and develop a prevention plan. Often you can text us photos of problem teeth or injuries and we can let you know how best to proceed. Our number one goal is to keep you and your children safe. We will get through this together.
I updated my patient’s notes after today’s visit; “treatment remains stable, hygiene has improved, pt. plans to receive vaccine when available, schedule normal six-month recall.”
Dr. Jackson is a pediatric dentist in Aptos. She emphasises preventive dentistry and patient education. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and has been practicing since 2000.