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This is how dental professionals can help diagnose COVID-19

With the staggering rate at which COVID-19 is spreading across the United States, it’s likely dental professionals are going to start coming into contact with patients carrying the virus. To help protect your practice against infection, it’s important you know how to spot symptoms of the coronavirus.

By understanding what the early signs of the coronavirus are and how to recognize them, dental professionals have the ability to literally save countless lives. When someone is correctly diagnosed early, they have a much greater chance of survival with minimal impact to their health. An early diagnosis also means the individual is isolated away from the rest of society, hugely reducing the rate at which the virus can spread.

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If you work in dentistry, by knowing the signs of COVID-19 and looking for them in your practice, you can be a true hero and do incredible things for the world. 

Coronavirus symptoms

The CDC list coronavirus symptoms as:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Shortness of breath.

These symptoms are fairly easy to recognize. As each patient enters the waiting area, a member of staff should check to see if they have a fever using an infrared digital thermometer. This type of thermometer can be used multiple times on multiple patients without any risk of passing on infection and gives accurate results in seconds.

Although this response might trigger fears over COVID-19 in some patients, it’s easy to turn the situation around. If any patient looks anxious, explain to them that taking everyone’s temperature helps identify someone displaying signs of the virus who can then be put into isolation until medical advice can be followed. This is much more effective than not taking temperatures and not knowing if anyone has a fever.

If anyone refuses to have their temperature taken, you should consider it as a warning sign, ask the patient to leave your practice and decline treatment. If the world is ever going to get control of the outbreak, it’s important we all do our part and work together.

The other two symptoms are easier to spot. Simply ask staff to be on the watch for any patients who appear to be struggling for breath or anyone who is repeatedly coughing. Our comprehensive coronavirus guide for dental practices describes how you can display posters and videos to educate your patients on the coronavirus symptoms and ask for their assistance in pointing out anyone displaying them.

Even though someone showing one or more of these symptoms doesn’t definitely mean they have the coronavirus, they are indications someone isn’t well. By pointing them out to the individual you could be helping to diagnose an underlying issue  which would otherwise have gone untreated.

Other emergency warning signs

In addition to the main coronavirus symptoms, there are some other emergency warning signs that could be an indication someone has COVID-19.

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest.
  • Confusion.
  • Bluish lips or face.

Acknowledging confusion in a patient is fairly straightforward and can be done immediately after taking their temperature. Ask them some basic questions, such as name, address, appointment time, reason for appointment, etc. The answers they give will be clear indications as to whether or not they’re confused.

Staff should be on the lookout for any patients who are having trouble breathing, are holding their hand to their chest or have a bluish tint to their lips or face. 

COVID19 handout dental practices pdf file

What to do if a patient shows symptoms

If a patient in your practice is displaying any of the above symptoms, isolate them immediately in a separate room. As long as you have enough for your staff, provide the patient with a medical mask to reduce the risk of virus transmission. As few people as possible should have close contact with the patient and anyone who does must wear full PPE.

Make a list of the person’s symptoms and how long they’ve had them. Advise the patient to call their doctor immediately and pass on the information. Ensure the door remains closed until the patient has advice on what to do next.

You can be a hero

Despite all the information widely available, not everyone fully understands the severity of COVID-19 and how seriously it can harm people. As a dental professional, it’s your duty to spot symptoms in your patients and keep everyone safe. While it might feel like a chore enforcing rules on people and asking uncomfortable questions, the results you get are worth it.

If you correctly pre-diagnose just one person with COVID-19, you’re a true hero. By seeing the signs in a patient and encouraging them to contact their doctor straight away, you’re helping them avoid intense suffering in the future. Not only that, but you’re also restricting the spread of the virus and stopping it being passed onto people at risk who could easily die from the disease. By following protocol and speaking up, you can save lives and help the world get back to normal.

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Disclaimer

The information provided here isn’t intended to be a substitute for medical advice, medical treatment or professional diagnosis. All text, information, images and graphics within this page are exclusively for information purposes. If you have any health concerns, please consult a medical professional.