ADA: Dentistry is essential health care

Dentistry is essential health care, according to a resolution passed Oct. 19 by the American Dental Association House of Delegates.

Photo of ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson
Dr. Klemmedson
"Oral health, as we know, plays a key role in a person's systemic health. Without dental treatment, there can be major impacts on a person's overall well-being," ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., said. "This resolution helps to ensure that patients have access to a full range of dental care whenever they need it in the current pandemic or other future crises. Dentistry is integral to keeping all Americans healthy."

Resolution 84H-2020 states oral health is an integral component of systemic health and explains dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.

It states the ADA will use the term "essential dental care" — defined as any care that prevents or eliminates infection and preserves the structure and function of teeth and orofacial hard and soft tissues — in place of "emergency dental care" and "elective dental care" when communicating with legislators, regulators, policymakers and the media about care that should continue to be delivered during global pandemics or other disaster situations, if any limitations are proposed.

The policy advises state agencies and officials should recognize the oral health workforce when designating their state's essential workforce during public health emergencies, in order to assist oral health care workers in protecting the health of their constituents. Federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency have already acknowledged dentistry as an essential service needed to maintain the health of Americans.

From March 16-April 30, the ADA called for dentists to postpone all but urgent and emergency procedures to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, keep patients out of overburdened hospital emergency departments and conserve personal protective equipment. By the end of May, most state governments had lifted restrictions on dental offices.

The ADA Board of Trustees previously adopted this policy as an ad interim policy in July.

Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute, moderated a panel session Oct. 16 during the ADA FDC Virtual Connect Conference on the essentialism of oral health. He discussed the session during an audiocast with the ADA News.