COVID-19 Vaccines: 8 Things Your Dentist Wants You to Know
What do flossing, fluoride and the COVID-19 vaccine have in common? Preventing disease.
Your dentist cares for your mouth because your oral health is essential to your overall health. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, your dentist has been working to put your health and safety first by taking extra steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the dental office.
Now, we have COVID-19 vaccines to add to the other tools we’ve all been using to fight the pandemic — like wearing masks, washing our hands and avoiding crowds. Here’s what the CDC (and your dentist!) want you to know about COVID-19 vaccines.
1. The Vaccines are Safe and Effective
As doctors of oral health, credible scientific information is important to us when recommending treatments for our patients. While these vaccines were developed in a shorter time frame than some other vaccines, it’s important to know that the science behind them was not rushed. And by January 2022, 211 million people in the US were fully vaccinated.
As an additional safety measure, the CDC has set up expanded safety monitoring systems like the V-Safe smartphone tool to monitor vaccinations in real time. These systems have shown that serious side effects are rare.
2. The Vaccine Won’t Make You Sick, But It Does Have Some Side Effects
There is no possible way COVID-19 vaccines can give you COVID-19. They might, however, come with some side effects that make you feel uncomfortable for a short time.
Because vaccines teach your body how to recognize and fight off a COVID-19 infection, you might feel some of the symptoms you’d get if your body were fighting off the real virus, such as a fever, according to the CDC. While unpleasant, this is actually a sign the vaccine is working in your body.
3. You Should Still Get the Vaccine Even If You’ve Had COVID-19
Those who have recovered from COVID-19 have some natural immunity that may protect them from getting sick again. Data from the CDC shows that vaccination of people who have had COVID-19 significantly improves their level of protection against being infected again and against having serious COVID-19 illness. The CDC recommends that people who’ve had COVID-19 still get the vaccine.
4. Get All Recommended Doses
Generally, if you are receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, you need two doses to be considered fully vaccinated. For the Pfizer vaccine, the second dose is recommended three weeks after the first. For the Moderna vaccine, the second dose is recommended four weeks after the first. And if you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you only need a single dose.
5. Can I get a booster?
The CDC recommends everyone 12 and older can get a booster shot. A second booster is recommended if you are 50 or older or you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for your initial shot and first booster.
The CDC’s recommendation around timing and “mixing and matching” types can vary in terms of timing and type of vaccine. Visit the CDC’s website for the most up-to-date guidance around boosters or talk to your healthcare provider.
6. Vaccine Eligibility Expands to All Americans 5 and Older
Anyone 5 and older can now receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Children and adolescents 5 – 17 are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and anyone 18 or older may receive any of the currently available vaccines.
The CDC created easy-to-use tools to help you find a vaccine nearby:
- Visit Vaccines.gov to search by vaccine type and zip code.
- Text GETVAX (438829) for English or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish to receive vaccine sites on your phone.
- Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-0233.
7. When to Wear a Mask
Vaccines can help you resume the activities you enjoyed doing most before the pandemic. Being vaccinated is your best protection against becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.
Still, masks can be an important tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and the CDC created a new tool in February 2022 to help people decide whether they should wear a mask indoors. The CDC’s COVID-19 Community Level tool tracks new hospitalizations, hospital capacity and cases in your area. Here are the masking recommendations based on community level:
- If your area is LOW, masks are not required but can be worn if you choose.
- If your area is MEDIUM, a mask is recommended if you or a loved one is at high risk for severe illness.
- If your area is HIGH, everyone should wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public settings.
No matter the community risk level, continue to wear a mask or respirator if you are sick with COVID-19 or you are caring for a loved one who has COVID-19. Masks are also still required on public transportation and inside transportation centers like airports or train stations.
Your dentist may also ask you to continue wearing a mask in the waiting room. All dental team members will continue wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and following strict infection control protocols during exams and procedures.
8. You Can Get the Vaccine If You Are Planning to Get Pregnant
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends vaccination for those who are pregnant. Whether you are planning to get pregnant soon or in the future, you should still get the vaccine when it is available to you. The CDC states there is no evidence that the antibodies created from COVID-19 vaccines will cause problems with a pregnancy. The CDC also says there is no evidence that fertility issues are a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine.
Have more questions? Talk to your dentist or physician. You can also visit the CDC’s website for more information about COVID-19 vaccines and find contact information for your local health department.