Dentist says World Health Organization's recommendation to delay routine oral care is 'untimely'

Posted at 4:00 AM, Aug 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-28 07:18:56-04

TAMPA, Fla. — In early August, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued interim guidance, advising people not to schedule routine dentist visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Dental Association (ADA) pushed back saying they "respectfully, yet strongly disagree." Now, a local dentist is backing them up on that.

When ABC Action News first reported the story, Dr. Greg Prior's wife saw it. She emailed ABC Action News and invited our reporter to see the "costly measures" the dental office put into place to put safety at the forefront of the practice.

Dr. Prior said back in March when Gov. Ron DeSantis put out the statewide emergency order, he had time to brainstorm how to safely re-open. The practice stocked up on hand sanitizer, air purifiers for every room, and air filters.

"The thing is about COVID, nobody knows what works yet," Dr. Prior said. "It takes a lot of different precautions, it’s like layers and layers of protection. So all the little things that we call the protocol adds up."


Dr. Prior also wanted to make sure his hygienists were outfitted with proper PPE. Now, they wear a level 3 mask, an N95 mask, a face shield, scrub caps and gowns on top of the standard PPE they always wear.

He said the timeline for WHO's recommendation doesn't make sense. Florida dentist offices were given the green light to re-open in April. Plus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ADA put out protocol.

"When they suggested you shouldn’t go to the dentist we were thinking, ‘What?' Dentistry is so important for people’s overall health," Dr. Prior said. "It seems untimely they would’ve done that, especially since we’re all coming back to work and we’re all putting in the protocols."

Other than getting your teeth cleaned at routine checkups, dentists may be able to catch signs of oral cancer or gum disease, which can be linked to diabetes and heart disease.

After WHO received criticism from the ADA, the organization published a portion of an email they received from WHO's chief dental officer.

"Unfortunately, a number of media headlines intentionally or not — when they are referring to the WHO guidance, did not mention that the recommendation to delay routine oral health care is only suggested in an intense uncontrolled community transmission scenario. A scenario that [does] not fit with the current situation of [most countries] around the world," Dr. Varenne said. "So please be aware of the missing information sometimes disseminated by the media that could increase fear and concern of patients seeking oral health care. I think we have all to play a part in sharing with the public, national dental associations and health authorities the full story provided in the guidance document."
WHO Chief Dental Officer Benoit Varenne, Ph.D.

"This is a time to really take care of your oral hygiene. The best way is coming in for regular checkups," Dr. Prior said.

If you decide to make an appointment, the Florida Dental Association says here is what you should expect:

  • A pre-appointment screening
  • Hand hygiene precautions
  • A new waiting room protocol
  • New procedures to limit contact