Like so many other industries across the US (and really, the world), the dental industry has been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 90% of all dental offices opted to close except for urgent or emergency procedures, per guidelines directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The main reason for this, of course, is due to the nature of how novel coronavirus is spread—mainly via respiratory droplets—and how likely it is for the virus to spread in the dental setting. And while personal protective equipment (PPE) can be an effective barrier, due to the shortage, there isn’t enough gear available to go around—even for emergency healthcare workers. (Dentists in France have even taken to protesting these PPE shortages by getting naked.)

But now, as social distancing guidelines are starting to relax across the country, many states—39 as of May 13, per the ADA’s interactive map—are allowing dental offices to reopen for elective procedures, such as teeth cleaning. But should you make an appointment ASAP, or is it better to wait it out a little bit longer? And if you do need an emergency dental procedure, what types of safety precautions are dental offices taking to ensure not only your health, but the health of their employees? Here’s everything you know about going to the dentist right now, during a pandemic.

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