Is it safe to go to my dentist? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We are answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to and we will respond as much as we can. We will post a selection of responses every day of the week online and will also ask some questions to experts during The National and the CBC News Network.

So far, we have received over 30,000 emails from all over the country. Your questions surprised us, surprised us and made us think, including several questions about reopening and what it means to you.


My dentist is seeing patients again, but is it safe?

Dental offices are reopening on Saskatchewan and Manitoba this week, but Randy Y. is wondering if dentists have enough PPE to keep patients safe.

In Saskatchewan, some dental offices remain closed because they do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks for emergency procedures. Others, however, are open and schedule appointments to treat anything causing pain or infection. However, simpler commitments for things like cleaning will have to wait for now.

How do dentists keep themselves, their staff and their patients safe?


"You will be wearing a dress. I will be wearing a dress. I will be in a hairnet, all that sort of thing. So it will be a different experience," said Dr. Parviz Yazdani, whose clinic in Saskatchewan opened Monday.

Saskatchewan College of Dental Surgeons says the following measures will be implemented in clinics that reopen:

  • All patients will receive a series of questions to ensure that they do not show symptoms of COVID-19 – their temperature will also be measured.
  • If drilling is necessary, the faculty asks dentists to perform the procedure in a closed room with a door that can be closed.
  • Since many dental offices have an open concept layout, a large plastic tent with a zippered door can be mounted around the workspace.
  • The operating room must remain closed for two hours for the dust to settle before it can be cleaned.

Dentists in Manitoba are taking similar precautions. "We recognize that many Manitobans are patiently waiting for their dental care needs to be managed and dentists want to resolve their urgent problems first," said Dr. Marc Mollot, president of the Dental Association of Manitoba.

Other provinces, including Quebec, are looking to Saskatchewan and Manitoba to see how their dentists handle COVID-19. "No dentist wants to go back to work until they have access to suitable PPE from our distributors," said Dr. Christine Nguyen Khac, in Quebec.

Nationally, the Canadian Dental Association says it is working with government officials to help offices gradually reopen to provide more services. "Complying with the guidelines for social distance and keeping patients, dentists and the dental team protected are the main priorities," said the association.

On here There is more information on what to do if you need to see your dentist during a pandemic.


Can my boss force me to go back to work?

Emma H., from Ontario, wants to know if she has the right to refuse to go back to work, because her partner is immuno-compromised.


Howard Levitt, employment lawyer and senior partner at Levitt LLP, says that this depends on your specific circumstances.

If, for example, a person has a private office and is able to move and enter the building, ensuring physical distance, he probably would not have the right to refuse the job, explains Levitt. However, "if the job was outside the perspective of security, they would have the right to refuse".

To determine this margin, an Ontario Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) inspector would review the situation.

The same criterion can be applied to someone who is being asked to go to work, but lives with someone at greater risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19.

"If you can get a medical certificate saying that your partner is immune-compromised and there is that kind of danger of leaving home, I believe the courts will make an exception," Levitt told CBC. Morning live. But he adds that every situation is unique and is treated as such when determining whether a person is able to refuse to go to work.

Toronto lawyer Joe Nzemeke says employers have a duty to ensure that workplaces are safe. "Your employer has a general duty to take all reasonable precautions in the circumstances to protect your employee," he said.

If you are concerned about your own safety at work, contact your doctor.

How do I safely dispose of used PPE?

Carolyn A. wants to know if it's okay to throw PPE in the trash or "should it be treated as infectious waste and put in yellow bags or containers?"

If you want to dispose of any potentially contaminated waste, it is important to do so safely.

First, make sure you take off masks and gloves correctly. This means treating masks and gloves as if they are contaminated and washing your hands with soap and water or cleaning with an alcohol-based disinfectant before putting them on and taking them off.

When removing a mask, move the ear clips away from your ears without touching the front of the mask. For gloves, this means taking them off and avoiding skin contact with the outside of the glove. Ontario Public Health have step by step instructions with photos.

Then, disposable gloves and masks should be disposed of immediately in a trash can or bag. In most places, you can put on masks and gloves with the regular garbage, just make sure the bags are well protected to protect others from coming into contact with potentially contaminated waste.

If you are sick or caring for someone, some municipalities like Vancouver and Toronto, ask you to take extra care and put your personal waste, including used masks, in a double bag before putting it in the trash. This is to protect garbage collectors.

Check with your municipality the guidelines for the trash where you live.

You may have seen pictures circulating on social media showing gloves and masks thrown aside in supermarket parking lots. This is obviously not the proper disposal. In some cities like Toronto and Vancouver where this type of waste has become a major problem, mosquitoes can suffer significant fines.

What does the number 19 mean in COVID-19?

Wayne and many others want to know where COVID-19 got its name?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause a variety of illnesses, from the common cold to more serious diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

This pandemic involves a strain of coronavirus that is new to humans.

Currently, the term coronavirus is used as a kind of abbreviation, but the new strain is officially called SARS-CoV-2. The disease that causes it is COVID-19.

According US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the "CO" in COVID-19 means "corona", "VI" for "virus" and "D" for disease. The "19" is the abbreviation for 2019, when the disease first appeared.

It was appointed according to the World Health Organization recommendations.

You can learn more about the meaning of specific terms and some subtle differences in our COVID-19 Glossary.

We are also answering your questions every night in The National. Last night, an infectious disease specialist answered this question: Is the coronavirus mutating? Watch below:

An infectious disease specialist answers your questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including whether the virus is mutating. 2:32

Tuesday, we answer questions about vaccines and vulnerable populations.

Keep your questions coming sending an email to

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