Citing a high risk of transmission among patients and providers, the World Health Organization recently updated its guidance on oral health care and is advising that non-essential, routine dental appointments be delayed until there is a “sufficient reduction” in COVID-19 transmission rates.
Oral health care providers work in close proximity to patients’ faces for prolonged periods of time, which increases their risk of contracting COVID-19, per the WHO.
“Their procedures involve face-to-face communication and frequent exposure to saliva, blood, and other body fluids and handling sharp instruments,” the WHO states in its guidance. “Consequently, they are at high risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or passing the infection to patients.”
The new guidance to delay appointments applies to routine dental care, including checkups, dental cleanings and preventative care, as well as aesthetic dental treatments. However, the WHO advises that urgent or emergency dental care that is “vital for preserving a person’s oral functioning, managing severe pain or securing quality of life” should not be delayed and should be provided despite the ongoing pandemic.
Urgent care includes dental work needed to address include acute oral infections; swelling; systemic infection; significant or prolonged bleeding; and dental/orofacial trauma.
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Strict infection prevention & control measures should be in place in #OralHealth care settings
-use of personal protective equipment, e.g. eye protection, disposable gown, medical mask/respirator
-adherence to cleaning & disinfection procedures pic.twitter.com/MSzUakQMy4
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) August 11, 2020
The guidance also recommends a hefty list of protocols for oral health care providers to follow, including increasing ventilation and avoiding recirculation devices; screening patients before an appointment; requiring staff to wear personal protection equipment and encouraging patients to use face masks.
Texas recently saw its largest COVID-19 case increase in nearly a week and the highest positive test rate to date. As of Tuesday evening, Texas’ positive test rate reached a record high of 23.97 percent according to a Houston Chronicle analysis of state data. The number of novel coronavirus cases is now at 516,686 cases total.