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WHO: Postpone your dental check-ups and cleanings unless you have an emergency

Business Insider logo Business Insider 8/12/2020 (Julia Naftulin)
a man sitting in a room: A dentist performs a dental examination. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images © Provided by Business Insider A dentist performs a dental examination. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • People should continue to postpone their regular dentist appointments, like those for teeth cleanings and annual check-ups, according to WHO.
  • Since these appointments involve close contact and procedures that spread small particles in the air, two commons ways to transmit the coronavirus, it's best to avoid them.
  • Only people with severe pain, physical trauma to the mouth, and excessive bleeding should make dentist appointments, WHO said.
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Even if you're months overdue for a teeth cleaning, you should skip out on your appointment, according to new guidance from the World Health Organization.

On August 3rd, WHO said that people should postpone non-essential oral healthcare that requires a visit to the dentist's office, including regular check-ups, cleanings, and preventive care.

Since dentist appointments involve close contact between a patient and doctor, as well as procedures that send microscopic particles into the air, these visits are "high risk" for coronavirus spread, according to WHO.

COVID-19, the illness the coronavirus causes, can be spread when virus particles are inhaled or absorbed through the eyes or nose. Though less likely, the virus can also be spread through surface contamination.

Video: US families take part in DIY virus research tests (Associated Press)

WHO wants people to postpone their dentist appointments until further notice

According to WHO, people should hold off on these visits "until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates from community transmission to cluster cases," or if local health officials give the go-ahead for dentist visits before then.

If possible, patients and doctors should rely on telemedicine for diagnosing and treating oral health problems, WHO said.

The only exceptions are emergency visits for oral infections, bleeding in the mouth that won't go away, trauma to the mouth, and severe mouth pain that can't be treated with over-the-counter pain killers.

For urgent oral health surgeries and appointments, WHO suggested doctors screen patients for potential COVID-19 symptoms beforehand, keep patients at least four feet from medical staff before the procedure, and work in a well-ventilated area. Doctors, medical staff, and patients should wear masks as much as possible.

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