When one is dealing with a cold, it can be hard to determine what parts of life can continue as usual and what should be put on hold. One such question that arises often is whether or not to visit the dentist while suffering from a cold. Although a routine visit to the dentist might seem harmless, certain aspects of the visit could be risky, both for the patient and the dentist. Fortunately, there are simple precautions that can be taken by both parties to ensure a safe and comfortable visit. If you’ve been wondering whether you can schedule your next dental appointment while battling a cold, read on to find out.
Symptoms of a cold and how it impacts a dental visit
A cold is a viral infection that can cause various symptoms, including a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing, and sneezing. These symptoms can interfere with different aspects of a dental visit such as:
During dental procedures, patients need to breathe through their nose or mouth to prevent choking or gagging. If a patient is experiencing nasal congestion or sore throat, this can interfere with breathing, making the procedure difficult for them to undergo. Additionally, when one has a cold, they might be more prone to coughing and sneezing, which makes wearing a dental mask uncomfortable. This can place both the patient and the dental team at risk of being exposed to respiratory droplets that can transmit the infection.
If a patient is planning to have local anesthesia during their dental appointment, they need to breathe through the nose and mouth to prevent any discomfort. Unfortunately, when one has nasal congestion, breathing through the nose can be a challenge, making the anesthesia process difficult.
If a person has a cold, they might not be at their best health-wise to receive dental procedures. Undergoing treatment when one is suffering from a cold can hinder their body from healing as quickly as it should, leading to complications or longer recovery time. It’s best to wait until one is feeling better before scheduling a dental appointment.
Precautions that should be taken when visiting a dentist with a cold
While it’s generally best to avoid visiting the dentist when suffering from a cold, there are times when it’s essential to proceed with the appointment. For instance, if one is dealing with severe tooth pain, a broken tooth, or a dental emergency. In such situations, certain precautions should be taken by both the patient and the dental team. They include:
Patients need to ensure they do the following during their visit:
- Inform their dentist of their symptoms beforehand. Any symptoms, including a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing, or sneezing, should be communicated to the dentist as soon as possible. This allows the dentist to take the necessary safety precautions during the procedure.
- Reschedule non-urgent visits. If the appointment is for routine cleaning or a non-urgent dental issue, it’s best to reschedule until the patient is feeling better.
- Practice proper etiquette. Patients should cover their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze, dispose of used tissues appropriately, and wash their hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.
- Breathe through their mouth. Nose breathing might be challenging during dental procedures when one has nasal congestion. Patients should, therefore, breathe through their mouths during the procedure.
Dentists should take the following precautions when attending to patients with a cold:
- Reschedule non-urgent visits. Any appointments that aren’t urgent should be rescheduled until the patient is feeling better.
- Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The dental team should wear appropriate personal protective equipment while attending to patients with a cold. This includes masks, gloves, and protective goggles or face shields.
- Avoid aerosol-generating procedures. To minimize the spread of infection, the dentist should avoid dental procedures that produce aerosols, such as drilling, scaling or polishing.
- Disinfect equipment thoroughly. Any equipment used during the appointment should be disinfected thoroughly to eliminate any chances of transmission of infection to other patients.
When to see a dentist after a cold
After a cold, it’s essential to wait for at least two weeks before scheduling a routine dental visit. This allows the body time to heal fully, and any symptoms to subside. Additionally, it’s advisable to wait for a minimum of three days before undergoing any dental procedure, to minimize the possibility of transmission of the infection. If unsure about when to reschedule a dental appointment, patients should contact their dentist for guidance.
The bottom line
While visiting the dentist when suffering from a cold is generally discouraged, there are times when it’s essential to proceed with the appointment. Patients should communicate their symptoms to the dental team beforehand, practice proper etiquette, breathe through their mouth during the procedure, and reschedule non-urgent visits. Dentists, on the other hand, should wear appropriate PPE, avoid aerosol-generating procedures, disinfect equipment, and reschedule non-urgent visits. Waiting for a minimum of two weeks after a cold to schedule a routine dental visit is also advisable. By following these precautions, patients and dentists can ensure a safe and comfortable experience for all.
Common questions and answers about visiting the dentist with a cold
- Can you go to the dentist when you have a cold and cough?
- Can dental procedures cause a cold?
- Can a dentist refuse to treat you if you have a cold?
- Is it safe to visit the dentist during the Covid-19 pandemic?
While it’s generally best to avoid visiting the dentist when suffering from a cold, there are times when it’s essential to proceed with the appointment. Patients should communicate their symptoms to the dental team beforehand, practice proper etiquette, breathe through their mouth during the procedure, and reschedule non-urgent visits.
No, dental procedures cannot cause a cold. Colds are viral infections caused by the rhinovirus, and they spread through respiratory droplets or direct contact with an infected person.
Yes, a dentist can refuse to treat you if you have a cold. Dental procedures require a patient to breathe through their mouth or nose, and if one is experiencing nasal congestion or sore throat, this can interfere with breathing, making the procedure difficult for the patient to undergo. Additionally, when one has a cold, they might be more prone to coughing and sneezing, which makes wearing a dental mask uncomfortable. This can place both the patient and the dental team at risk of being exposed to respiratory droplets that can transmit the infection.
Yes, it is safe to visit the dentist during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dentists have implemented several safety protocols to ensure patients’ safety during the pandemic, including wearing appropriate PPE, disinfecting equipment, and following social distancing guidelines. Some of the protocols implemented include pre-appointment screenings, frequent hand-washing, limiting the number of patients in the waiting area, and staggering appointments. Patients should contact their dentist for any concerns or questions they may have about visiting the dentist during the pandemic.
 “Can You Go to the Dentist When You Have a Cold?” Hello Dental, 19 Feb. 2019, hellodent.co/can-you-go-to-the-dentist-when-you-have-a-cold/.
 “Dental Procedures.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Dec. 2020, cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/dental-settings.html.
 “When to Reschedule a Dental Appointment Due to Illness.” Pediatric Dental World, 24 Apr. 2021, pediatricdentalworld.com/when-to-reschedule-a-dental-appointment-due-to-illness/.