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ADA urges CDC to update guidance for dental personnel

CDC director testifies agency supports Association’s guidelines

May 12, 2020

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The American Dental Association is urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “quickly provide guidance” on how to safely reopen dental practices during the deceleration phase of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a May 6 letter to CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D, ADA President Chad P. Gehani and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin applauded the agency’s current interim guidance — which was created April 7 and reinforced the ADA’s guidance calling for dentists to postpone all nonemergency dental visits — and thanked the agency for acknowledging COVID-19 “as an emerging and rapidly evolving situation that would require adjustments” as more information became available.”

“The latest CDC guidance (as of April 27) is still appropriate for those parts of the country where COVID-19 infection rates are accelerating or peaking,” Drs. Gehani and O’Loughlin wrote. “However, the situation is much different in areas where infection rates are now declining — and the risk(s) of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19 are very low. It is critical for dentists to have a new or revised guideline recognizing a risk-based approach."

“We respectfully ask the CDC to update its guidance to address how to protect dental personnel returning to work during the deceleration phase of COVID-19. Such guidance will give states the confidence to permit the safe reopening of dental offices and enable patients to access essential dental care,” the letter concluded.

During the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions' May 12 hearing, COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, singled out dentists and their efforts in reopening their practices safely.

"If dentists are following ADA guidelines on infection protocols, strict protection measures and closely examining and seeing decline of COVID-19 patients in their county, are these reasonable factors to consider for re-opening dental practices?" Sen. Collins asked. "Dental health is so important."

Dr. Redfield, who was one of the witnesses at the hearing, testified that the agency is working closely with the ADA and dentists and that he "would not disagree" with ADA guidance.

"We are in the process of updating CDC guidelines, which will include dental practice guidelines," he said.

The ADA News will continue to provide updates to this story.

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