CHICAGO, Ill. — Not going to the dentist is now being added to the long list of ‘don’ts’ during COVID-19.
The World Health Organization released an advisory to delay routine visits to the dentist saying oral health procedures cause rapid contamination of surfaces enabling the virus to spread quickly.
“WHO advises that routine non-essential oral health care – which usually includes oral health check-ups, dental cleanings and preventive care – be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates from community transmission to cluster cases or according to official recommendations at national, sub-national or local level. The same applies to aesthetic dental treatments.”
The WHO went on to advise urgent or emergency help should be provided.
Those instances include any cases of swelling, systematic infection, prolonged bleeding, severe pain or trauma, according to the WHO.
Shortly after the World Health Organization came out with the advice not to go to the dentist until COVID-19 is under control, the American Dental Association fired back, saying it respectfully disagrees with the recommendation.
“Oral health is integral to overall health. Dentistry is essential health care,” states ADA President Chad P. Gehani, D.D.S. “Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.”
The ADA and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers these tips for dental professionals when it comes to COVID-19.
- Request that dental staff call patients prior to the scheduled appointment to ask questions about their current health status.
- Advise patients to wear a face-covering when entering the dental practice.
- Limit the number of people who accompany a patient to the appointment. If possible, the patient should make the visit alone.
- Assess all patients upon arrival; temperature checks may be completed.
- Remove items in office waiting rooms such as toys or reading material to limit potential transmission through high touch surfaces.
- Encourage social distancing practices by minimizing the number of patients in the waiting room by spacing appointments thoughtfully and perhaps by asking patients to wait in their car until the dental staff is ready to treat the patient.
- Advise dental staff members to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate, such as surgical masks or N95 masks, full face shields or goggles with side shields to ensure an environment that is as safe and healthy as possible for patients and the dental team.
- Place hand sanitizer generously around the office for use, and ensure surfaces are cleaned regularly.
The ADA also calls for the highest level of PPE available, like masks, goggles and face shields, when working with patients. The ADA strongly encourages dentists to minimize aerosols by using rubber dams and high-velocity suction whenever possible and hand scaling when cleaning teeth rather than using ultrasonic scaling.
For patients, the Florida Dental Association released a list of what you can expect for your upcoming routine appointment.
“Millions of patients have safely visited their dentists in the past few months for the full range of dental services. With appropriate PPE, dental care should continue to be delivered during global pandemics or other disaster situations.” Dr. Gehani, said.