Prevention & Maintenance

You and Your Dentist


COVID-19: What to Expect at the Dental Office

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Dentists Are Back, But It's Not Business as Usual

It was in late May when the Ministry of Health lifted restrictions to allow us to see the dentist again, but things aren’t entirely back to normal.

There’s still a pandemic happening which is why dentists are taking extra precautions to make sure everyone in the dental office stays protected. That means you, staff and the dentist!

Keeping that in mind, your next appointment will be a little different than what you were used to. Below you’ll find information on what you can expect.

Offices Must Meet Safety Requirements

For a dental office to be open during the pandemic, it must meet and maintain all updated safety guidance from the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO). Dentists must follow this guidance along with information from the Chief Medical Officer of Health when re-opening their office and providing care. This includes:

  • Appointments will be spaced out to allow physical distancing between patients. It will also allow time for the treatment areas to be disinfected between each appointment. That can also mean might mean less flexibility for scheduling your appointment
  • Before your appointment and once again when you arrive at the dental office, your dentist or their staff will ask you questions to see if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. Your temperature may be taken with a touchless thermometer when you arrive for your appointment.
  • PLEASE stay home if you have flu-like symptoms (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Patients who are sick and have an upcoming dental appointment should call their dental office to report symptoms, reschedule or ask about other care options.
  • You will be asked to wear a mask or face covering while in the office except during treatment.
  • Dental staff will be wearing more protective gear than normal. Your dentist must ensure that they have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) before they schedule an in-person appointment.
  • Plan to come alone. There are exceptions for small children and people who require assistance. If a parent or caregiver is allowed, they will also be subject to all screening measures.
  • You may be asked to wait outside the dentist's office and call when you arrive. You'll be notified when you can enter.
  • The waiting room will not be open for everyone. Chairs will be spaced two metres apart. There will be no magazines, toys or any other non-essential items in the dental office.
  • Patients must wash their hands with a 70- to 90-per cent alcohol-based solution, or soap and water, when entering and leaving the dentist's office.
  • Bathrooms will likely be closed to patients.
  • Plan to pay by touchless payment, such as credit card or Interac.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is it safe to visit my dentist during the pandemic?

Yes. Dentists have always followed very strict infection prevention and control procedures. With the additional COVID-19 guidance, dentists are providing you with the safest care possible. Their priority is to protect you, other patients and their staff.


What about the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending putting off non-essential dental care during COVID-19?

This guidance is meant for countries with wide-spread community transmission of COVID-19 and does not apply to what’s happening in Canada at this time. You can read more about this from our national partner, the Canadian Dental Association.

Rest assured, Ontario dentists have always followed strict infection control standards. During the pandemic, dentists are doing everything they can to put additional levels of protection in place to create the safest environment for everyone in the dental office.


Why is my dentist charging a PPE fee?

Under the pandemic, members of the dental care team now require more personal protective equipment (PPE) – such as N95 respirator masks, gowns, face shields and/or head and foot coverings – when treating patients. Your dentist may charge a PPE fee to cover some of the higher costs of additional supplies needed to provide treatment during this time. A pandemic-related PPE billing code has been created for dentists to use, if necessary.

The ODA publishes an annual Suggested Fee Guide, which is meant only as an informational reference that dentists can use when deciding how to set their own fees. The suggested range for PPE fees is $8 to 18, depending on the amount and type of PPE required for treatment. Your dentist will determine whether to charge a PPE fee, and how much, based on their individual circumstances. (Read more about how dental fees are set by dentists here.)

Before you start any treatment, your dentist must get your informed consent. This means discussing the treatment options and sharing an estimate of the fees (including any PPE fees) you will be charged before you agree to proceed. You can and should ask questions to fully understand the proposed treatment and all its associated costs.

You should also be aware of what your dental plan covers, since each benefits plan is different. The decision to reimburse patients for a PPE fee is made by insurance companies and plan sponsors, e.g. employers. (For general information on dental plans, visit our Dental Benefits Explained page.)


I think I have a dental emergency. What do I do?

Call your dentist. They will ask you for information about your situation and give you advice about next steps. If you need to visit the office, they will let you know if they can help you or will direct you to another dentist or emergency clinic.


What is a Dental Emergency?

A dental emergency is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. This includes:

  • Trauma – an injury to the mouth and face
  • Severe infection, such as an abscess or swelling
  • Bleeding that continues for a long time
  • Dental pain that can’t be managed by over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil


Can my dentist just prescribe medications for me over the phone?

Your dentist will decide if over-the-counter medications or prescription medications are necessary, or if you need to be seen at the office. If you need a prescription, your dentist may send it to the pharmacy directly.


How can I take care of my teeth before I can see my dentist?

Practicing good dental hygiene and following healthy lifestyle habits is more important than ever. Here are some tips:

  • Brush your teeth using the proper technique at least twice a day for two to three minutes each day.
  • Floss daily. It’s more effective than brushing alone, and helps to remove food debris and bacteria from places the toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Eat a healthy diet, rich in calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D rich in omega-3 fats.
  • Quit or cutback on smoking.
  • Be mindful of stress. Regular exercise, meditation and deep breathing can help reduce the impact of stress on your mouth and immune system.
  • If you’re consuming alcohol or marijuana, do so in moderation. When you drink, your mouth is exposed to increased levels of sugars and acids found in alcohol, which can be damaging to your teeth. Marijuana smoke can cause oral cancer, dry mouth and staining, and THC can weaken your immune system.
  • Snack in moderation, and swish with water after eating sugary snacks to help wash away sugar and acid.
  • Chew sugarless gum to help stimulate saliva flow and avoid dry mouth. That salivary stimulation helps protect your teeth from decay-causing bacteria


How do I know if I have COVID-19?

The Ministry of Health has an online self-assessment tool to help you determine if you need to seek care.

If you are having difficulty breathing or experiencing other severe symptoms, call 911 immediately. Advise them of your symptoms and travel history.


Where can I find current, credible information about COVID-19?

The ODA recommends checking in daily with the Ontario Ministry of Health’s website for the latest updates: https://covid-19.ontario.ca.

Other reliable sources include:

Last updated: September 18, 2020

COVID-19: FAQ for Dental Professionals

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Last updated: March 31, 2020

The ODA has created this FAQ to help answer some of the most common questions being asked by dental professionals.

We strongly encourage you to visit the websites of your professional associations and/or regulatory bodies for more resources and information pertinent to you. For ODA members, log in to the member website for the latest updates, including screening protocols. If there are any question you want answers to, but don't see them here, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll try our best to respond.



Frequently Asked Questions

1) How is the ODA advocating for dentists and the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic?

2) Who ordered the closure of dental offices in Ontario?

3) What qualifies as essential or emergency treatments?

4) How can I make ends meet while my office is closed?

5) What is the ODA doing about redistributing PPEs to emergency medical facilities?

6) What happens to Oral Health Month?


 

How is the ODA advocating for dentists and the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The ODA is committed to supporting its members and their dental teams in several ways.

  • We participate in daily briefings with the Ministry of Health to monitor and understand the evolving situation with respect to the guidance that we give to members.
  • We work closely with the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) to coordinate efforts and communications to make sure dentists get the latest consistent and reliable guidance.
  • We regularly update our members with employment resources to help them deal with the financial impacts of dental office reductions/closures on them and their teams.
  • The ODA is part of a COVID-19 Response Team that includes executive directors and staff from the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) and other provincial dental associations. The goals of the Response Team are to share information and discuss ways to support Canadians and the dental profession in these challenging times.
  • The CDA is in ongoing direct contact with several federal government departments to explain the challenges that are faced by dentists and their teams due to the many disruptions brought about by the pandemic.

The ODA has also been assessing and looking for clarification on the various federal and provincial financial support initiatives that have been announced to develop guidance for dentists and their teams. This will most likely include details on the newly announced Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Ontario’s Action Plan. We hope to provide you with more information soon.

Who ordered the closure of dental offices in Ontario?

Only the Ministry of Health has the legal authority to close dental offices, and so far, they have not. On March 16, 2020, the RCDSO – the regulatory body for dentists in Ontario – strongly recommended that all dentists suspend all non-essential appointments, including check-ups, non-emergency or cosmetic procedures. The ODA supported this recommendation. For more information on RCDSO guidelines, visit their website.

What qualifies as essential or emergency treatments?

In dentistry, a “true emergency situation” includes oral-facial trauma, significant infection, prolonged bleeding or pain which cannot be managed by over-the-counter medications. Guidance on how to manage emergency cases can be found on the RCDSO website.

How can I make ends meet while my office is closed?

The federal and provincial governments are acting to offset the financial hardship Canadians may experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Prime Minister and Canada’s Finance Minister introduced the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit and additional measures to support small businesses. Additional details are expected in the coming days.

Ontario’s Minister of Finance released Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 and announced measures to support people, families, workers and employers, including:

  • One-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, to help families pay for the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures.
  • Property tax reassessments being conducted this year for the 2021 tax year have been postponed. 
  • The Ontario government also announced an end to Time-of-Use electricity pricing during the COVID-19 outbreak. Effective immediately, electricity will be priced at "low-peak" - 10.1 cents/kwh - at all hours of the day for the next 45 days.

The ODA is reviewing the plan and will have more information on how this will affect dentists and their teams.

In the meantime, please check the Federal COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: Support for Canadians and Businesses to see what financial support is available to you.

What is the ODA doing about redistributing PPEs to emergency medical facilities?

The ODA is working with its local component societies and other organizations to coordinate PPE donations for emergency dental clinics, hospitals, long-term care homes and public health units. There’s a lot of interest in the dental community to help out, and we’re keeping dentists updated on how they can.

Since we don’t know how long these distancing measures will be in place, it’s still critical that dentists who are treating emergency cases maintain the stock of PPE required. If they can’t perform emergency treatments, patients could seek help at their local hospital and that would cause even more strain on an already overloaded medical system.

ODA Members who are able to contribute to the ODA’s ongoing PPE redistribution efforts can learn more here.

What happens to Oral Health Month?

The ODA has postponed its advertising campaign for April and is looking at other ways to promote oral health during the pandemic, including a downsized social media campaign. Visit our Oral Health Month page for more details, and follow along on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts!  






The Dental Exam

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If you haven't found a denstist, use our handy tool to search for one in your area. At your first appointment, your dentist will ask you for your medical history. As part of this dialogue, there are a number of things you should make your dentist aware of. Some of these include: 

  • Any medical conditions you may have. These can affect your dental care and treatment.
  • Any medications you are taking. Some side effects can affect the conditions in your mouth.
  • If you are pregnant.
  • If you have any allergies.
  • Any changes you noticed in your teeth or gums, such as looseness or bleeding when you brush.
  • Any sensitivity to heat or cold.
  • If you smoke or chew tobacco.
  • If you are aware of clenching or grinding your teeth, or if your neck or jaw muscles are too tight.
  • If you’re nervous about going to the dentist. New technologies and processes have made dentistry more comfortable for patients. Talking to your dentist may reassure you and help you feel more relaxed.
Check out the video on our
youtube
to familiarize yourself with a dental office so you're ready for your next dental appointment.

The dentist will look in your mouth for things that can affect your oral - and your overall - health. Many of these are things you can't see on your own, but that a dentist is trained to detect. Here is some of what your dentist is looking for during a dental exam:

  • damaged, missing or decayed teeth
  • early signs of cavities
  • condition of your gums, such as periodontal pockets, inflammation or other signs of gum disease (which can lead to tooth and bone loss)
  • to see how previous dental work such as root canals, fillings and crowns are holding up
  • early signs of mouth or throat cancer, such as white lesions or blocked salivary glands
  • other suspicious growths or cysts
  • position of your teeth (e.g., spacing, bite)
  • signs that you clench or grind your teeth (a treatable problem that can cause headache or sore jaw and can, if serious, lead to hearing loss and tooth loss)
  • signs of bleeding or inflammation on your tongue and on the roof or floor of your mouth
  • the overall health and function of your temporomandibular joint (which joins the jaw to skull), checking for signs of disorders that can cause pain or tenderness
  • the general condition of the bones in your face, jaw and around your mouth
Get to know what happens during a routine dental exam. Brought to you by the Alberta Dental Association and College.View the video on our
youtube

The dental exam can catch problems early - before you see or feel them - when they are much easier and less expensive to treat.

As well as the visual inspection of your mouth, the exam may also include:

  • an examination of your neck area, with the dentist feeling the glands and lymph nodes for possible signs of inflammation that could indicate general health problems; and
  • dental X-rays, if necessary. These can show such problems as cavities under existing fillings, fractures, impacted wisdom teeth, decay under your gum line and bone loss caused by gum disease.

Dentists provide their patients with dental treatment plans and options for care that best meet their individual needs. By understanding what the dentist is looking for during an exam and speaking with your dentist about your diagnosis you can make informed decisions about your own oral health needs.

Source: The Canadian Dental Association

It Comes Back To Bite Us

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Every nine minutes an emergency room must deal with it. More than 5,000 times a day, a classroom is disrupted by it. For over a third of us, our quality of life is impacted by it. The results are clear in waiting rooms, school offices, and in many homes across the province - the consequences of underfunded public dental programs come back to bite all of us.

It's a pain that targets the most vulnerable members of our communities. Children, low-income families, seniors, and people living with disabilities needlessly suffer from dental problems that go untreated. But it doesn't have to be this way. If proper investments were made in current public dental programs, they can do what they're supposed to - give care to those who can't afford it.

See a list of current public dental programs.

The cost of ignoring the dental needs of the most vulnerable members of our communities is much higher than the price of properly funding these programs. Providing programs that work means people will get the care they need on a regular basis with a dentist of their choice. In the long-term, regular dental care prevents health problems, increases self-esteem and employment opportunities and reduces financial strain on the health-care system.

Dentists are subsidizing public dental programs by as much as $150 million a year, but the problem is too big, and too important, to fix alone. Ontario's dentists have the knowledge, ideas, and passion to work with the government to find a solution.

Keep following our Facebook and Twitter channels and stay tuned for details on how you can get involved.

Current Public Dental Programs


  • Healthy Smiles Ontario

    Provides free preventive, routine, and emergency dental services for children and youth 17 years old and under from low-income households. Visit the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services website for more details.
  • Ontario Works (OW)

    Helps people who are in financial need. Adults between the ages 18-64 covered under OW may be eligible for dental care, depending on where you live in the province. Visit the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services website for more details.
  • Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)

    Provides financial assistance and benefits to people with disabilities and their spouses. People under the ODSP have coverage for basic dental services. Visit the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services website for more details.
  • Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

    Covers dental surgeries performed in hospitals because they are complex and/or patients have other medical conditions that need monitoring during the procedure.
  • Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP)

    Provides free, routine dental services for low-income seniors who are 65 years of age or older. Visit the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website for more details.

The Cost of Dentistry

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How are dental fees determined?

Dentists are obligated to adhere to a high standard of dental care and must comply with strict statutory requirements designed to ensure the highest level of patient safety. Dentists are responsible for the costs related to operating a dental office.

Specialized equipment, products and materials used in dental treatment, the complexity of the treatment, sterilization and safety protocols, hiring trained and licensed staff and ongoing continuing education for the dental team, practice location and other overhead costs all factor into the cost of providing dental care.

Dentists have to consider all these factors when determining their fees. Operating costs will vary between dental offices as well as provincially.

Why are specialist fees higher?

Dental specialists receive additional training in a particular field of dentistry. They bring a high level of expertise to treatment provided within their specialty. General practice dentists will refer patients where a specialist's care is required.

Treatment provided within specialty fields is often highly technical and complex. It can involve the use of specialized equipment, materials required for treatment, additional staffing needs and ongoing education. All of these factors are considered by specialists when determining treatment costs.

Can I get an estimate for treatment before going to the dentist?

After a review of your medical history and discussion of any symptoms or concerns you might have, a dentist will conduct a thorough oral examination of the mouth to identify and diagnose any dental disease. If your dentist identifies an issue in your mouth, they will discuss this with you, along with their treatment recommendations.

Any treatment provided by a dentist is always patient-specific, based on individual patient requirements as a result of the examination and diagnosis made by the dentist. Oral health needs vary greatly between individuals and therefore, there is no average treatment.

Your dentist will work with you to review treatment alternatives and provide a cost estimate for the treatment plan before proceeding. The estimate can be influenced by the specific treatment options presented, further discussions related to materials, the extent of the care required, whether or not laboratory fees factor into care, etc. Note: A dentist can only provide an estimate of costs and patients should be made aware that costs may change when the actual treatment is performed. As with any medical-based procedure treatment planning can change over the course of treatment; this can have an influence on cost.

Can I get a second opinion; the cost estimate seems high?

It is important that you feel comfortable in proceeding with any dental treatment. Your dentist is there to support your health and answer any questions you may have, including why they are recommending the treatment presented and/or any related to cost.

If you are concerned with any factors relating to a proposed treatment plan, you are welcome to seek a second opinion. It is important to understand that there will be an additional cost associated with this as the second dentist will need to conduct an examination and consult with you to develop treatment options.

Questions you might ask your dentist:

• Why are they recommending the treatment options presented—what is/are the benefit/s to your oral/overall health?

• Are there alternative treatment options available?

• What are the implications of refusing or delaying treatment?

• Is there anything you can change in your mouth care to prevent similar issues in the future?

• What is required on my part to maintain the dental treatment recommended?

Why can't a dentist provide a second opinion without an examination?

In order to provide an opinion related to dental care, a dentist must understand all the factors that are influencing a patient's health. A diagnosis of therapy can only be arrived at by performing a thorough examination of the mouth to identify and diagnose any dental disease. See also: Can I get an estimate for treatment before going to the dentist?

Is dental treatment guaranteed?

While dentists are committed to delivering high quality dental care to their patients, dentistry cannot be guaranteed. To guarantee success is considered misleading and is contrary to the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario’s Code of Ethics.

Is there anything I can do to limit the cost of dental care?

Prevention is the best way to maintain good dental health. Practice good dental habits at home: brush at least twice daily for two to three minutes; floss daily; limit sugary drinks and snacks; don't smoke; and visit your dentist for regular care including an examination. It is important to diagnose problems before they become more complex and costly. Dental disease is progressive and unlike a cold will not resolve itself. The cost of prevention is always far less than the cost of neglect.

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