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ADA recovery task force to release hazard assessment tool

Guide latest in series of resources to help dentists protect team, patients as practices reopen

May 15, 2020

By Kimber Solana

The ADA’s Advisory Task Force on Dental Practice Recovery is set for a May release of a hazard assessment guide, which will assist the dentist in evaluating procedural risks as they consider how best to provide both a safe workplace and patient care.

Photo of Rudy Liddell
Dr. Liddell
“The hazard assessment tool will allow dentists to assess their risks based on what’s occurring in their local region, rather than just the amount and types of personal protective equipment that they have on hand, but also on what’s occurring in their local region,” said Dr. Rudy Liddell, task force co-chair.

It’s the latest in a series of resources the task force has produced in supporting dentists as they navigate the process of reopening their practices amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hazard assessment, according to the task force, is for dentists returning to work. An evaluation should be run with each patient based on a number of factors including such things as the environment, patient’s health, dental work needed, how that work might be delivered, what staff is needed and what type of personal protective equipment is available and appropriate. These factors are balanced against any mitigating actions that might be taken, with the result being an assessment of the overall risks in delivering that care under the patient’s circumstances.

“It makes sense that if you practice in an area with low incidences of COVID-19 and robust testing, that the chances of treating a patient who is COVID-19 positive is lower,” Dr. Liddell said. “And the opposite is true if you practice in an area in which the cases are increasing.”

The assessment is based on an Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s requirement that dentists perform hazard assessments when evaluating the conditions under which their staff are going to work.

Photo of Dr. Kirk Norbo
Dr. Norbo
ADA President Chad P. Gehani assembled the task force in April to oversee the ADA’s development of tools for dentists as they bounce back from the effects of practice restrictions and closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force has the overall goal of helping dentists get back to serving their communities while protecting patients, office staff and themselves. It is comprised of practicing dentists with support from ADA experts in science, practice, law, regulation, communications and other key areas.

Since its inception, the task force has been charged with oversight of resources created to help dentists as COVID-19 closure mandates abate. Their most recent publication is the Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit, designed to help dentists return to more normal practice operations while taking precautions to protect the dental team and patients from COVID-19 as some states reopen — with response surpassing expectations. As of May 11, over 93,200 people have engaged with the toolkit.The upcoming hazard assessment tool will be a great complement to the Return to Work toolkit, said Dr. Kirk Norbo, task force co-chair.

“The purpose of this hazard assessment is to help members decide what course of action is required to treat each of their patients on a case-by-case basis,” said Dr. Norbo, adding that the task force’s intention is to provide a guide that will help with maintaining a safe work environment by selecting appropriate PPE and management of the dental facility.

“If the hazard assessment is carried out properly, this will create a safe workplace and minimize the risk of exposure of [dental health care personnel] to the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Dr. Norbo said.

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit ADA.org/virus.