On an August 11th press release, the WHO recommended that non-emergency dental care be postponed during COVID-19 to mitigate the risks posed by aerosol generating procedures. 

WHO’s Chief Dental Office, Benoit Varenne, DDS, MPH, PHD, suggest urgent and emergency dental care should be prioritized followed by non-aerosol generating procedures.

Varenne stated, “WHO guidance recommends in case of community transmission to give priority to urgent or emergency oral cases, to avoid or minimise procedures that may generate aerosol, prioritize a set of clinical interventions that are performed using an instrument and of course to delay routine non-essential oral health care”. 

ADA President Chad Gehani, DDS, asserts that “oral health is integral to overall health… Dentistry is essential healthcare because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health”.

The American Dental Association (ADA) respectfully and strongly disagreed with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation to delay “routine” dental care in certain situations due to COVID-19. 

Both the ADA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then issued interim guidance related to COVID-19 for oral health professionals  listed below.

CDC Guidance for Dental Settings Echoes ADA Guidance

Organizations Recommend How to Move Forward With Dental Care During Pandemic – May 29, 2020

  • 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 (PPE) 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.

The CDC’s updated dental settings guidance offers additional recommendations such as how patients can be positioned in the dental chair during appointments.

The ADA guidance also includes ways dentists and hygienists can reduce aerosols such as:

  • hand scaling when cleaning teeth rather than using ultrasonic scaling,
  • use of high velocity suction whenever possible and
  • use of rubber dental dams whenever possible