The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that people delay dental care – including oral health check-ups, dental cleanings, preventive care and aesthetic dental treatments – because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in a recent statement, the American Dental Association (ADA) “respectfully yet strongly disagrees.”

In fact, prior to the August declaration from the WHO, the ADA had already filed a resolution with the House of Delegates to declare dentists essential workers.

This brief timeline shows how the situation and conditions have evolved in recent months:

  • Initially, in March, due to the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission in dental settings, the ADA had called for dentists to pause non-emergency care.
  • By May, however, the ADA had released guidelines for reopening practices amid the pandemic that advised dentists on how to keep both themselves and patients safe.
  • Dental practices in New York began re-opening June 1.
  • In late July, the ADA’s Board of Trustees adopted an ad interim policy stating that dentistry is essential health care and that dentists are essential workers.
  • The House of Delegates will consider it as a resolution in October.

As indicated in the ad interim policy, the ADA will urge state agencies to include dentists among its essential workforce during public health emergencies. Dental health care is already recognized as essential by federal government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

Dr. Chad Gehani, president of the ADA, notes that millions of patients safely visited dentists over the summer. “Oral health is integral to overall health,” Dr. Gehani said in a statement. “Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.”

“I’m proud of how individual dentists in their own communities have used our guidance to ensure dentistry can be provided safely and timely now and in any future pandemic,” Dr. Tom Paumier, a member of the ADA’s task force for dental practice recovery, told ADA News. “Never again should our patients be deprived of access to comprehensive and preventive oral health care, as delayed care has consequences beyond the mouth.”

In support of its recommendations for patient safety and protection of dentists and their staff, the ADA will continue lobbying FEMA to help dentists obtain appropriate PPE.

As you continue to provide patient care during this time, MLMIC encourages you to consult strategies for safe reopening and operations.