Like many of us, parents across the U.S. are wondering when they can resume the new normal. When will schools and daycares reopen? When will parks, pools and activities resume? And when is it safe to take my child to the dentist again?
During these difficult and challenging times, and as the leader in children’s oral health, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry is developing new precautions and protocols to ensure our nation’s children continue to receive the highest standard of care in a safe and secure environment.
“Now more than ever, we want our patient families to understand that dental care for children is a medical necessity,” says Dr. Kevin Donly, president, AAPD. “Adopting good oral health habits early, including taking your child for their first dental visit by age 1, will set our children up for a lifetime of healthy habits. Conversely, delaying children’s oral care routines can cause tooth decay, aka ’mouth monsters,’ possibly resulting in compromised health, development and quality of life.”
As families prepare to resume their normally scheduled pediatric dental appointments, Donly shares the following advice for parents and caregivers:
On maintaining oral health:
- If you have a question or if your child may have a dental emergency, reach out to your pediatric dentist right away. If your pediatric dental office is closed, consider connecting via phone, email or social media. It is extremely important that families visit their pediatric dentist if needed and avoid the often-overloaded emergency rooms.
- During these uncertain times, don’t forget about the basics. Help your children brush for two minutes, twice a day. Parents can make a game out of it by setting a timer or playing a song that lasts for two minutes while you brush together. Brushing together can show your children how to brush, how often and for how long.
- While we continue to follow stay-at-home orders, beware of around-the-clock snacking as bacteria can linger on the teeth and increase risk of tooth decay. And don’t be fooled by “healthy” snacks such as organic fruit chews or granola bars that are laced with added sugars. Encourage your children to drink water instead of juice, and limit snacking to mouth-friendly options like cheese, fresh fruit or pretzels.
On preparing to see your pediatric dentist again:
- First and foremost, if your child is not feeling well or has had a fever in the 24 hours before your scheduled visit, please stay home and re-schedule your appointment. Similarly, if the parent or caregiver escorting your child to the dentist has a fever or feels ill, please re-schedule your visit.
- Plan to arrive for your appointment on time. If you arrive early, please wait in your car or outside the office (when possible); many pediatric dentists will be re-evaluating office waiting rooms to minimize potential risk.
- Consider wearing a homemade mask to cover your and your child’s (2 years and above) mouth and nose.
- Wash your hands and your child’s hands immediately following your dental visit.
- Share your feedback with us. During these challenging times, we want to communicate with our patient families often to ensure they are feeling safe and getting questions answered.
Understanding the transition to reopen pediatric dental offices will look different from community to community based on state and local government recommendations, the AAPD reassures its patient families the organization will be updating safety guidelines to adapt to the new normal. This might include rearranging offices/patient rooms to follow social distancing recommendations, updating sanitation protocols and ensuring ample protective equipment is available for patients when needed.
For more information about children’s oral health or to find a pediatric dentist in your area, visit mychildrensteeth.org.