DentaQuest Partnership clarifies WHO position on public delaying routine dental cleanings during pandemic


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON/WTNH/AP) — The World Health Organization Tuesday clarified their new guidance advising people to postpone routine dental cleanings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday, “The DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement, a nonprofit organization working to transform an inequitable health care system, seeks to clarify recent oral health guidance by the World Health Organization (WHO).”

According to AP, DentaQuest says patients should only delay routine cleanings and care if they live in an “uncontrolled community transmission scenario.”

That is not the situation in most of the world or Connecticut as of this reporting. The WHO says most patients should be continuing their routine dental care.

The following is a statement from Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, President and CEO of the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst Institute, Inc.:

Recent WHO guidance has caused quite a bit of confusion at a time we can least afford it. Let us be clear – oral health directly impacts overall health, and this guidance does nothing to prevent people in the U.S. from continuing preventive dental care during this pandemic.

In fact, the WHO guidance specifically defers to recommendations at the national and local levels. In the United States, leading public health organizations have issued clear infection control measures that should be implemented by dental practices to ensure that in-person preventive dental care can be administered as safely as possible. We have worked to compile those best practices into easily accessible resources for dental providers and patients to follow. As long as national and local recommendations support it — and dental providers follow these procedures — patients do have the option to visit their dentists for routine dental care.

We urge people to continue addressing their oral health needs in whatever way they are most comfortable — whether at home, via teledentistry appointments, or by visiting their dental provider. Delaying oral health treatment now can lead to more significant health problems down the line.

– Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, President and CEO of the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst Institute, Inc.

Original reporting follows below.

According to the WHO, all dental cleanings, oral health checkups, and other preventative care should be delayed until coronavirus numbers in communities ease because dentists work in close proximity with patients for prolonged periods of time.

“Their procedures involve face-to-face communication and frequent exposure to saliva, blood, and other body fluids and handling sharp instruments,” the guidance said. “Consequently, they are at high risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or passing the infection to patients.”

This is enhanced by the use of dental equipment that sprays and produces particles that then go into the air. Those aerosols can lead to “rapid contamination of surfaces and potential for the infection to spread,” the WHO added.

The WHO is advising dentists to give advice to patients on maintaining proper dental hygiene via social media or videoconference call instead.

Exceptions can be made for emergencies or those needing urgent care, the WHO said.

The guidance said dentists who are operating during this time should mitigate risk by practicing social distancing, wearing face shields and/or respirators, eye goggles, and other PPE.

All frequently-touched surfaces should also be cleaned.

The American Dental Association, however, is firing back, saying it “strongly disagrees” and that with appropriate PPE patients and professionals can safely operate.

Dr. Richard Nagy is the president of the California Dentist Association. He explained, Dentists have been experts in infection control for over 20 years due to the HIV AIDS scare. So we’re used to preparing our offices for infectious disease control.

While there have been no clusters of COVID outbreaks directly traced to dental offices, two separate Colorado Springs dental offices recently reported staff with positive COVID-19 tests.

And some dental workers are on edge.

Sara Mercier said, “…the problem with dentistry right now is nobody knows the risks…everything we do, including just having a patient open their mouth and breathing, creates aerosols.”

But Dr. Nagy says most dental offices across the country have taken the pandemic seriously, revamping offices, adding ventilation, and strengthening sanitation and safety protocols.

Dr. Nagy added, “we really increased our knowledge of airborne-based pathogens and prepare their offices in terms of PPE-enhanced training for our staff.”

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