Quarantine Dental Question
May 20, 2020 6:14 AM   Subscribe

I need to see a dentist soon about a slight toothache. Should I get a cleaning at the same time?

I have gum disease and am supposed to get a dental deep cleaning four times a year. I had been getting them from my periodontist, and had been scheduled for one in April. But at that time, my state was not allowing nonemergency dental work.

So my periodontist's office rescheduled my cleaning for July. I hadn’t yet decided whether I was going to go then, and was going to base that decision on the current pandemic situation in my area as the time got closer.

Over the past week, my county has been averaging about 20 new cases per day (out of about 680,000 population). I don’t know how many we are testing in the county. But my state is a leader in testing rate, overall. I also don’t know the total cases in the county.

So, my question is: Should I try to get a cleaning at the same time I take care of my toothache?
posted by NotLost to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm fairly certain most dentists will insist on a cleaning before determining what is causing a toothache.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:25 AM on May 20, 2020

If the practice is offering a cleaning, I would absolutely accept. (I prefer to have mine done 4x a year as well, and my most recently scheduled appointment was cancelled due to the virus)

The biggest risk is going to be to the person doing your cleaning. They will be wearing a mask, and preferably a clear plastic shield. The dental office will have

Wear a mask at all times that you're not actively having your mouth cleaned or worked on. Don't hesitate to ask the dentist and hygienist and anyone else to also wear a mask/wash hands/etc if you notice they're not.

If the practice is not offering cleanings, I would ask if they're available, and if the answer is no, I would drop the subject and just deal with the urgent situation.

You will almost certainly be getting at least one diagnostic image taken, so be prepared for the lead vest and all that. For peace of mind, you probably will want to change your clothes when you get home.
posted by bilabial at 6:35 AM on May 20, 2020

Oh, well, the short answer is that I just called my regular dentist's office, and it looks like I can't get the two-fer appointment right now anyway. Darn it. Thanks for your answers anyway.
posted by NotLost at 6:47 AM on May 20, 2020

Do neither. Stay at home.
posted by pompomtom at 7:36 AM on May 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

@pompomtom Getting a toothache checked out is exactly the kind of dental work people should be doing right now, in order to avoid a bigger medical problem later.

I would have said try to get both at the same time since you're already in the office, but it sounds like it's a moot point anyway.
posted by mekily at 7:50 AM on May 20, 2020 [17 favorites]

[One comment deleted; this is AskMe, please take the snark etc elsewhere and just answer constructively here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:46 AM on May 20, 2020

I know you've already resolved this, but I'm posting an answer for those who might peek in with a similar question.

My girlfriend is a dental hygienist here in Portland, Oregon. Her office is resuming work on June 1st. Dental hygienists have absolutely one of the to risk factors for COVID-19. No joke. So, her practice is taking all sorts of precautionary measures, but many of the staff aren't willing to return to work yet. They're scared. So, cleaning appointments are going to be vastly reduced where she works. In fact, they're going to see children only for a week or two.

I can't say that all practices around the country will be operating with the same caution, obviously, but it's something to consider. Cleaning appointments are probably going to be difficult to come by for a while because it's a tough situation requiring all sorts of crazy new protocols, procedures, and gear.
posted by jdroth at 11:09 AM on May 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

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