Royal College of
Dental Surgeons of Ontario
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Patient dental treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dentists must consider the best interests of their patients and communities at all times. The College developed guidance for dentists: COVID-19: Managing Infection Risks During In-Person Dental Care.

Dentists must use this guidance along with information from the Chief Medical Officer of Health when re-opening their office and providing care. 

Here are key areas of the guidance provided to your dentist to help ensure your safety and manage infection risks during in-person dental care.

Infection Prevention and Control

  • Infection prevention and control in dentistry is vital for safe patient care.
  • All dentists providing dental treatment are required to ensure the College’s Standard on Infection Prevention and Control are met in their dental practice.
  • If you are concerned about your dental condition, your dentist will ask you questions over the telephone and determine if you need to be seen. If you need to be seen in the office, there are strict Infection Prevention and Control Standards that they must follow. 

Sterilization

  • Your dentist must ensure that the office and treatment rooms are clean and disinfected between each patient appointment.
  • Your dentist must ensure magazines, toys, and any other non-essential items are removed from office, reception area, and treatment rooms.
  • Dentists must tell their staff to clean their hands frequently, especially before and after contact with patients, after contact with high-touch surfaces or equipment, and after removing PPE.

Dentists’ Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Your dentist or oral health care worker should wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, protective eyewear, masks and protective clothing (if an aerosol-generating procedure is performed). PPE should always be used during your treatment.
  • Your dentist must ensure that they can meet the PPE and operatory requirements before they schedule an in-person appointment for assessment or treatment.
  • If your dentist can’t meet the PPE and operatory requirements, and you require emergency treatment, your dentist must refer you to another dentist.

Patient Screening and PPE

  • Before you go into the office, your dentist or their staff will ask you screening questions to see if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Dentists must require all patients and visitors to wear a mask at all times while in the office except when they are being treated.
  • Patients who arrive without a mask must be given one by staff before entering the office. If they can’t provide a mask, they will schedule a new appointment.

Hand Hygiene

  • Patients will be required to perform hand hygiene (washing) using a 70-90% alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water, as soon as they enter the dental office.
  • Your dentist may ask you to disinfect with 70-90% alcohol-based hand rub before leaving the dental office.
  • Your dentist or oral health care worker must wash their hands with soap and running water (or 70-90% alcohol-based hand rub).

Patient experiencing symptoms of COVID-19

  • Click here for the Ministry self-assessment link.
  • Contact your doctor.
  • Call Telehealth Ontario. The Telehealth number is 1-866-797-0000.
  • Stay in self-isolation until you receive instructions otherwise from one of the above sources. 
  • Patients should tell office dental staff if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days after their dental appointment.

I don’t want to go to my dentist’s office. Can my dentist just prescribe medications for me over the phone?

Your dentist will decide if over-the-counter medications (e.g. Advil, Tylenol) are recommended, if prescription medications are necessary, or if you need to be seen at the office. 

If you need a prescription, your dentist may send a prescription to the pharmacy directly, if appropriate.

During this pandemic, all dentists must continue to practice within the College's Guidelines on prescriptions for narcotics and/or opioids.

Advice to dentists on getting vaccinated and vaccine hesitancy

The College encourages dentists to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Vaccination (unless contraindicated) can help safeguard the health of friends, family, colleagues, and patients.

Dentists must provide care to existing patients regardless of their views about vaccinations or their decision to receive or decline vaccination.

Can I ask my dentist or dental staff about their vaccination status for COVID-19?

Vaccination status is personal health information and, therefore, confidential and private. If you ask a dentist or their staff about their vaccination status for COVID-19, neither the dentist nor their staff are obligated to reveal this information.

When asked by a patient, a health care worker can choose to divulge their own vaccination status, if they wish. A patient cannot demand this information. 

Can dentists ask patients about their COVID-19 vaccination status?

The Ministry of Health COVID-19 Patient Screening Guidance distinguishes between patients who have and have not been fully immunized* against COVID-19. Additional screening questions are now required for patients who are not fully immunized against COVID-19. 

*A fully immunized individual is defined as any individual >14 days after receiving their second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or their first dose of a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine series (i.e. Johnson and Johnson).

All patients must be screened using this form and treated accordingly. The protocols described in the College’s guidance document COVID-19: Managing infection risks during in-person dental care apply to patients based on their screening status, not their vaccination status. Dentists must follow appropriate precautions for all patients based on their screening results for COVID-19.

If a patient refuses to answer the background question (Question 1) or refuses to disclose their COVID-19 immunization status, the dentist may note this refusal in the patient’s record and proceed to ask the screening questions. 

The patient’s screening results will determine the appropriate protocols, as described in the College’s guidance document.

A patient should never be discriminated against or refused treatment based on their vaccination status, or refusal to disclose this information. Dentists have a duty to provide health care services free from discrimination.

Where to find up-to-date information

Follow us on Twitter @rcdso_org for regular updates or check our website.