With most of the state under a new California Department of Public Health Limited Stay at Home order, the California Dental Association is reminding the public that dental care is an essential health care service and dental practices remain open.

Under guidance from the California Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dental practices adhere to strict infection control guidelines and office protocols to safely provide oral health care during the pandemic.

“Oral health is essential to overall health and we want Californians to know that dentists are prepared to safely provide care and meet their patients’ oral health care needs,” said Dr. Richard Nagy, president of the California Dental Association (CDA).

To minimize the risk of infection, dental practices follow very strict infection control guidelines to protect patients and staff, including:

• Staggered appointment times to ensure social distancing.

• Prescreening questions by phone/text before appointments and additionally when you arrive.

• Fewer people in the waiting room.

• Virtual check-in before entering the office to reduce traffic flow.

• Temperature taken upon arrival.

• Masks worn by everyone throughout appointments, including patients (except during treatment).

• Dentist and dental team wearing more protective clothing and face protection than previously worn.

Other precautions, such as no magazines or toys in the waiting room and a sneeze guard at the front desk, for example.

To keep teeth and gums healthy, the CDA urges Californians to brush two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, floss regularly, avoid sugary drinks and visit a dentist for regular checkups to diagnose dental problems early when they are easier to treat.

To help keep children out of dental pain, parents should provide each family member with his or her own toothbrush, spoon, fork or cup; wipe infants’ gums twice a day with a washcloth; clean pacifiers and bottles with soap and water, not spit; put only water in a baby’s bottle at bedtime; and help children brush and floss until they have mastered the skill — usually around age 7.