August 12, 2020
By Mary Beth Versaci
The American Dental Association released a statement Aug. 12 stating it “respectfully yet strongly disagrees” with the World Health Organization’s interim guidance recommending that “routine” dental care be delayed in certain situations because of COVID-19.
“Oral health is integral to overall health. Dentistry is essential health care,” ADA President Chad P. Gehani said. “Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.”
The ADA Board of Trustees adopted an ad interim policy stating dentistry is essential health care during a video call July 27, and the House of Delegates will consider it as a resolution during its virtual meeting in October.
As U.S. COVID-19 cases began to rise in March, the ADA called for dentists to postpone all but urgent and emergency care in order to understand the disease and consider its effect on dental patients, dental professionals and the greater community, Dr. Gehani said.
Both the ADA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then issued interim guidance for dental professionals related to COVID-19, calling for the use of the highest level of personal protective equipment available, such as masks, goggles and face shields. To minimize aerosols, the ADA guidance also recommended dental professionals use rubber dams and high-velocity suction whenever possible and hand scaling instead of ultrasonic scaling when cleaning teeth.
“Millions of patients have safely visited their dentists in the past few months for the full range of dental services,” Dr. Gehani said. “With appropriate PPE, dental care should continue to be delivered during global pandemics or other disaster situations.”
In its interim guidance, WHO recommends that “routine” oral health care be delayed until COVID-19 transmission rates decrease from community transmission to cluster cases or according to official recommendations at the national, subnational or local level.
“Most of the media coverage of the WHO interim guidance missed that the guidance did not intend to override ‘official recommendations at [the] national, subnational or local level,'” said Dr. Christopher H. Fox, CEO of the International Association for Dental Research and American Association for Dental Research. “The ADA and the CDC have clear interim guidance for the safe delivery of oral health care. However, IADR and AADR would respectfully disagree with the WHO interim guidance that defines preventive oral health care as nonessential health care.”