As COVID-19 cases again surge across the U.S., dentists may be worried about the return of restrictions they experienced in the spring, but as of Nov. 30, no states were asking dental offices to limit essential services, and the American Dental Association is also advocating for dental care to continue during the pandemic.
“At this point in time, the American Dental Association firmly believes dental care can continue to be delivered safely,” ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., said in a statement Nov. 17. “Guidance recommended by the ADA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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.”
The ADA continues 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 based on 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,” Dr. Klemmedson said.
State dental societies have reached out to their members to clarify guidance from their state governments and assure them essential dental services may continue.
Dentistry is Essential
The ADA House of Delegates passed a policy stating dentistry is essential health care during its virtual meeting in October.
Resolution 84H-2020 states oral health is an integral component of systemic health and explains dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.
It states the ADA will use the term “essential dental care” — defined as any care that prevents or eliminates infection and preserves the structure and function of teeth and orofacial hard and soft tissues — in place of “emergency dental care” and “elective dental care” when communicating with legislators, regulators, policymakers and the media about care that should continue to be delivered during global pandemics or other disaster situations, if any limitations are proposed.
The policy also states that state agencies and officials should recognize the oral health workforce when designating their state’s essential workforce during public health emergencies, in order to assist oral health care workers in protecting the health of their constituents. Federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency have already acknowledged dentistry as an essential service needed to maintain the health of Americans.