Noting that oral health is crucial to overall health care, the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) says it is important that routine oral health care is allowed to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic—provided that specific safety protocols are followed, including the use of PPE.
"A commitment to overall health demands that oral and primary health care be viewed in an integrated fashion," said Karen West, D.M.D., M.P.H., ADEA President and CEO.
ADEA issued a statement in the wake of Interim Guidance, dated Aug. 3, 2020, from the World Health Organization that generated headlines in the media and confusion in the field about routine oral care during the pandemic.
The guidance from WHO reads in part: "WHO advises that routine non-essential oral health care—which usually includes oral health check-ups, dental cleanings and preventive care—be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates from community transmission to cluster cases or according to official recommendations at national, sub-national or local level."
Dr. West stressed that it is possible to deliver safe and effective dental care if specific protocols are followed, including the use of PPE. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides detailed guidance for dental settings.
"The fact is dental offices and clinics have already reopened their doors and are providing their patients with comprehensive and safe care," Dr. West said. "Health care professionals, including those in oral health care, are dedicated to stopping the spread of COVID-19. We can fight the pandemic without sacrificing patient care if we continue to educate ourselves, take the proper precautions and work together."
She added that if routine dental care were to be discouraged, it would have a detrimental effect on access to oral health professionals in the future. Such a move could interrupt the ongoing training at dental schools and programs where students, under the supervision of dentists, provide care to underserved populations.
"We need to make sure that patients get the dental care they need and that dental and dental hygiene students get the clinical training they need so that our commitment to treating patients holistically is not eroded during this pandemic and beyond," Dr. West said.
About ADEA: The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is The Voice of Dental Education. Our mission is to lead and support the health professions community in preparing future-ready oral health professionals. Our members include all 78 U.S. and Canadian dental schools, more than 800 allied and advanced dental education programs, more than 50 corporations and approximately 18,000 individuals. Our activities encompass a wide range of research, advocacy, faculty development, meetings and communications, including the esteemed Journal of Dental Education®, as well as the dental school application services ADEA AADSAS®, ADEA PASS®, ADEA DHCAS® and ADEA CAAPID®. For more information, visit adea.org.