In a Nov. 20 email to members, ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., addressed a question that has been on the minds of dentists everywhere: would the ADA once again recommend that dental practices postpone all but urgent and emergency procedures as the Association did in March?
The answer, which is also addressed in a Nov. 17 ADA statement, is that the ADA “firmly believes” dental care can continue to be delivered safely.
“Dental care should continue during the pandemic because dentistry is essential health care,” Dr. Klemmedson said. “In March, we didn’t have then what we have now — specific guidance.”
The ADA president pointed to the ADA’s guidance from April and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that followed in May as key factors in helping dentists and dental teams deliver care safely. Both resources call for the use of the highest level of personal protective equipment available, such as masks, goggles and face shields. The ADA also recommends screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure before dental appointments, using rubber dams and high velocity suction whenever possible, and hand scaling rather than ultrasonic scaling to minimize aerosols.
“I know this guidance works,” Dr. Klemmedson said.
In his message, Dr. Klemmedson also noted that to date, there is no documented transmission of COVID-19 in a clinical dental setting, according to the CDC. Additionally, a study published in November issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association found that fewer than 1% of dentists nationwide were estimated to be COVID-19 positive as of June, according to an American Dental Association Science & Research Institute and Health Policy Institute study.
Dr. Klemmedson also expressed sympathy for the toll the virus has taken on health professionals, their patients, friends and family.
“When the pandemic began, we read stories about people who contracted the virus, but they were far from many of us. It’s hitting a lot closer to home these days,” he said. “Do you know at least one of the 11 million people in the U.S. who have tested positive for COVID-19? If you knew someone who has died from it—as a quarter of a million people have—my heart goes out to you.”
Dr. Klemmedson reassured members that the Association will continue to monitor the COVID-19 resurgence.
“Local and state governments, due to the resurgence, may implement increased measures to try to curb infection rates,” he said. “Thus far, these measures have not resulted in any shut down of dental practices, but I encourage you to consult your local and state dental society for the latest local and state information.”
He urged dentists to take advantage of ADA’s free patient communications resources in the Patient Return Resource Center. These resources include suggested talking points and may help dentists reassure patients about the extra measures they are taking to safely deliver care as well as teach them the importance of oral health to overall health.
“As your ADA president I am beside you every step of the way advocating on your behalf, that of our patients and the public at large,” he concluded. “Stay safe and well.”
For all COVID-19 resources from the ADA, including toolkits and digital events, visit the ADA Coronavirus Center for Dentists at ADA.org/virus.
The ADA will continue to update its guidance as more information becomes available about COVID-19.