ADA Releases Coronavirus Guidelines for Dentists

Kelsey CreehanFeatured News

Originally published on ADANews

The American Dental Association has released an informational handout for dentists on the coronavirus disease, now named COVID-19.

The handout covers strategies for helping prevent the transmission of suspected respiratory disease in the dental health care setting and answers frequently asked questions related to the virus, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Patients with an acute respiratory illness may seek treatment at outpatient dental settings. The ADA recommends following standard precautions with all patients, at all times.

Similar to patients with other flu-like illnesses, patients with COVID-19 have reported mild to severe symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. They also may have traveled to China or had close contact with someone who traveled to China within the past 14 days.

Dental personnel should be alert and identify patients with an acute respiratory illness when they arrive, give them a disposable surgical face mask to wear and isolate them in a single-patient room with the door kept closed to limit their contact with other patients and personnel. Isolated patients should wear their masks outside their rooms.

To help prevent the transmission of all respiratory infections, dental practices should adhere to respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette infection control measures, such as performing hand hygiene, providing tissues and no-touch receptacles to throw away used tissues and offering face masks to patients who are coughing. Offices also should follow routine cleaning and disinfection strategies used during flu season.

Dental personnel assessing a patient with a flu-like or other respiratory illness should wear a disposable surgical face mask, nonsterile gloves, gown and eye protection to prevent exposure. Because recommendations for COVID-19 could change as more information becomes available about the disease, the ADA suggests checking for updates on the CDC’s coronavirus infection control page for health care professionals.

The CDC recommends all health care workers, including dentists and staff, receive the flu vaccine, and personnel experiencing a flu-like illness should not report to work.

The coronavirus has led to tens of thousands of cases of respiratory illness in China, and infections have been reported in other countries as well, most of them associated with travel from Wuhan, China, where the virus was first detected. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals and people, causing the common cold or more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS.

As of Feb. 24, there were 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., including 36 people who were evacuated by the U.S. from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. That total also includes three people who were evacuated from Wuhan and another 14 cases that were detected and tested in the U.S., including 12 that were travel related and two that were transmitted person to person.

Because of the growing number of cases and reach of the disease, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on Jan. 30. The next day, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary declared it a U.S. public health emergency.

However, the immediate health risk from the coronavirus to the general American public is considered low at this time, according to the CDC.

For more information, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 webpage.