The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated interim infection prevention and control guidance for dental settings during the COVID-19 response on May 19, very similar to science-based guidance issued earlier in May by the ADA.
The ADA welcomed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance, which is in close alignment with the ADA’s Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit.
“Oral health is an important part of overall health,” said ADA President Chad P. Gehani. “Resuming regular dental visits are important because treatment, as well as prevention of dental disease, helps keep people healthy. The guidance from the ADA and the CDC give dental professionals the information they need to practice as safely as possible. I am pleased to see dental practices reopening to provide patients with the dental care they need. The safety of patients, dentists and dental team members has been and always will be ADA’s utmost concern.”
The CDC guidance iterates the ADA’s earlier recommendations by describing how dental professionals, building upon existing infection control measures, can help protect patients and the dental team when re-engaging in providing the full range of oral health care.
In March, the CDC recommended that dental settings should prioritize urgent and emergency visits and delay elective visits and procedures to protect staff and preserve personal protective equipment and patient care supplies, as well as to expand available hospital capacity.
“As the pandemic continues to evolve, and health care settings are responding to unique situations in their communities, CDC recognizes that dental settings may also need to deliver nonemergency dental care,” according to the new CDC guidance. “Dental settings should balance the need to provide necessary services while minimizing risk to patients and dental health care personnel.”
CDC and ADA recommendations include:
• 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 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.
Both the CDC and ADA guidance are recommendations and not regulations. States control what procedures are allowed to be provided, largely through their licensing boards. According to the CDC guidance, “Dental health care professionals should regularly consult their state dental boards and state or local health departments for current local information for requirements specific to their jurisdictions.”
The ADA had urged the CDC 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.
For more resources on the Association’s response to the pandemic, visit ADA.org/virus.