ADA task force assembles interim guidance toolkit for dentists returning to work

Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit graphic
The ADA's Advisory Task Force on Dental Practice Recovery has developed a toolkit to help dentists return to more normal practice operations while taking precautions to protect staff, patients and themselves from COVID-19 as some states reopen.

The Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit focuses on the short-term management of dental practices and includes a sample "welcome back" letter to patients, pre-appointment screening guidance, in-office patient registration procedures, reception area preparation strategies, a chairside checklist, staff protection strategies and a supplies shopping list.

"Our goal was to provide a basic road map for members to follow that would allow them to safely reopen their offices," said Dr. Kirk M. Norbo, co-chair of the task force and 16th District trustee.

The ADA created the task force to help develop general tools to support dentists as they return to providing nonemergency care after closures and practice restrictions related to COVID-19 are lifted. Because areas of the country will return to practice at different times and under different circumstances, dentists will need to use their own professional judgment and consider COVID-19 cases in their area, the needs of their patients and the availability of necessary supplies as they begin to provide elective dental care again, according to the guidance toolkit.

Dr. Rudy Liddell, co-chair of the task force and chair of the ADA Council on Dental Practice, said the task force wanted to provide member dentists with guidance that was based on science and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

"The challenge we faced when formulating this document was balancing the introduction of new protocol addressing this specific COVID-19 virus with existing infection control measures members have used for decades to safely deliver dental care to their patients," Dr. Norbo said. "This document is intended to augment current infection control practices to address the COVID-19 virus on an interim basis."

To help protect their office staff, dentists may consider implementing a soft launch for their practices, where they discuss the new strategies and practice them before welcoming patients, the ADA advises.

The toolkit also includes interim guidance previously released by the ADA on the personal protective equipment recommended to practice during the COVID-19 pandemic and minimize the risk of virus transmission, as well as a chart that highlights the characteristics of several common types of masks and their appropriate uses.

The task force is comprised of practicing dentists with support from ADA experts in science, practice, law, regulation and other key areas.

"The support of the ADA staff was invaluable in the development of the toolkit," Dr. Liddell said.

For all COVID-19 resources from the ADA, visit the ADA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Center for Dentists. The ADA will continue to update its guidance as more information becomes available about COVID-19.