At this point in time, the American Dental Association (ADA) firmly believes dental care can continue to be delivered safely. Guidance recommended by the ADA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to safeguard the health of the public. Dental care is essential health care. Regular dental visits are important because treatment, as well as prevention of dental disease, helps keep people healthy. See the ADA’s statement from August on this topic.
To date, according to the CDC, there has been no documented transmission of COVID-19 in a clinical dental setting. Additionally, a study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association found the prevalence of COVID-19 among dentists to be less than one percent. Researchers from the ADA Science and Research Institute and the ADA Health Policy Institute are continuing to collect infection rate data among dentists and have added dental hygienists to the research as well. The preliminary data suggest the monthly incidence rate among dentists has remained below one percent. Conclusive data from a six-month period will be part of an upcoming publication.
Patient and dental team safety is always a foremost concern of dentists. The intent of the ADA’s recommendation in March to postpone all but urgent and emergency care until April 30, 2020 was to help mitigate the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, conserve essential personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical frontline colleagues, and avoid the need for patients requiring emergency dental treatment to go to overburdened hospital emergency departments.
During the postponement period, an expert task force of the American Dental Association examined existing research to consider standard infection control in dental offices and how it could be augmented even further during the pandemic in order for patients to safely receive the full range of dental care. This led to the development of an ADA COVID-19 interim guidance for dental professionals released in April as state and local governments began reopening certain businesses considered “essential,” including dental practices.
The CDC’s interim guidance for dental care settings—later released in May—echoed the ADA’s interim guidance. The ADA’s guidance calls for the highest level of PPE available—masks, goggles and face shields. The ADA’s interim guidance also calls for screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure before dental appointments, the use of rubber dams and high velocity suction during dental procedures whenever possible and hand scaling when cleaning teeth rather than using ultrasonic scaling to minimize aerosols.
The ADA will continue to monitor the developing situation and recognizes that local and state health departments, state dental societies and, in some cases, large urban local dental societies may make recommendations they believe are appropriate due to local conditions. In general, however, dentists and dental team members across the country have effectively implemented ADA and CDC recommendations, and dental practices should remain open to provide dental care to patients.
For more information on the measures dentists and their teams are taking to provide dental care, please visit MouthHealthy.org/backtodentist.
About the ADA
The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 163,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit ADA.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website MouthHealthy.org