As more coronavirus cases are being documented across the country and worldwide, and as recommendations are being issued by government and health officials to curb the spread of infection, many workplaces, including dental offices, are adapting to follow these new recommendations.
As of today (4/3/20), most states have issued stay-at-home orders, directing all residents to only leave home for essential needs. And some states have temporarily closed nonessential businesses. Under most of these executive orders, dental offices are considered essential and allowed to remain open but only for emergency procedures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA), among others, have also issued statements supporting these mandates.
On March 16, the ADA issued an initial interim recommendation that dentists keep their offices closed to all but emergencies through April 6. On April 1, the ADA updated its recommendation to extend through April 30 at the earliest. The ADA notes that existing and future local or state government mandates supersede ADA recommendations.
In light of these new circumstances, dental offices are making changes to their operations in several ways.
Closing the Office Temporarily
Some dental offices are opting to temporarily close their doors due to the coronavirus. “I was just informed that our office will be closed for at least two weeks,” said Laura R.
Marcia A. is having a similar experience and hopes her office closure is short-lived. “Our office has been closed since March 23 and will be until at least April 6. I’m hoping things get better, as I’m using paid time off.”
Chito C.’s office also has closed — and he’s been thinking of all those in a similar position, as well as those who are still working. “My employer sent us a group message on March 15 that all work will be suspended for at least the rest of the week. I’ve been thinking about everyone and am sending positive thoughts.”
Staying Open for Emergency Care Only
For the dental offices that are staying open, most are treating only emergency cases. “Our office is staying open, but for emergencies only with limited hours,” shares Crystal A. “We have four doctors in our practice, and they are dividing up the days to only allow for one doctor to be working in the office each day.”
Sherice K. can relate: “We are doing the exact same thing — taking emergency cases only.”
Andrea A. adds, of her experience, “We are a private practice, only open to emergencies once a week as of now. We have already postponed all treatment for the rest of March and April. We’re just taking it week by week.”
COVID-19 Dental Office Guidelines and Resources
Dental professionals are among the most at-risk professions during this outbreak due to the close proximity in which they work with patients and each other. To help keep dental team members and patients safe, several organizations have issued interim guidelines for dental offices during this time.
ADA’s Dental Emergency Guidelines
The ADA has published a document that outlines the types of procedures that constitute a dental emergency, noting that this guidance may change as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, and stressing that dentists should use their professional judgment in determining a patient’s need for urgent or emergency care.
ADA’s Summary of Guidance for Dental Offices
The ADA has published a summary of the guidance it has developed for dental offices during the COVID-19 crisis. This two-page document includes a summary of the emerging science on how COVID-19 spreads, how to minimize risk during dental treatments, and links to related ADA resources.
ADA’s Map of State Mandates for Dental Offices
The ADA has developed an interactive map to help dental professionals navigate the state regulations, recommendations and mandates regarding the practice of dentistry during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information, which is updated regularly, can be viewed through the interactive map and downloaded in an Excel file.
CDC’s Interim Guidance for Dental Settings
Among its numerous resources, CDC has published interim guidance for infection prevention and control for dental settings amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The page includes numerous recommendations and links to several other CDC resources.
CDC’s Strategies to Optimize the Supply of PPE and Equipment
Given the nationwide shortage of PPE, CDC has developed optimization strategies for healthcare facilities and healthcare personnel to implement when PPE supplies are stressed, running low or absent. The recommendations on this page cover guidance for eye protection, face masks, isolation gowns, N95 respirators and ventilators, plus a PPE “burn rate” calculator.
CDC’s Information for Healthcare Professionals
CDC has compiled resources for healthcare professionals that can be accessed from this page, including general information healthcare providers should know, frequently asked questions and more.
OSAP’s COVID-19 Toolkit
The Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) has developed a webpage that links to the guidelines, statements, and resources of numerous government, health and dental organizations, including the ADA, CDC, OSHA, National Institutes of Health, World Health Organization, and more.
How is your office responding to the coronavirus? Share your experience.