Should I Listen To The Latest WHO Dental Warning?
If you keep up with the ever-evolving news about the pandemic, you may have seen the WHO recommend that routine dental procedures be postponed for the foreseeable future. This announcement has caused quite a stir in some circles, and it is a troublesome headline if you’ve got a dental cleaning coming up. However recently the ADA (American Dental Association) released a counter statement about the World Health Organization recommendation. In it they respectfully but strongly disagree with the latest WHO ruling. So who should you listen to? The WHO or the ADA?
The WHO Recommendation
So first let’s break down the WHO’s determination. They believe that any and all routine dental procedures be postponed until COVID-19 transmission rates have receded. The reason for this recommendation has to do with aerosol spray that comes from a patient’s mouth. As your dentist cleans your mouth, the tools they use cause the patient’s saliva droplets to be cast into the air. This potentially places dentists and their staff at a greater risk to contract COVID-19. The WHO argues that the close-up interaction between a dentist and patient is one that is high risk at this time. They do not recommend postponing emergency procedures at this time.
ADA’s Counter Statement
As the news coverage around the WHO recommendation has grown larger, the ADA rightfully saw a need to clarity their position. At this time they do not agree that routine procedures be postponed in the US. At the onset of the pandemic, the ADA recommending closing offices to all routine treatment until the disease could be studied. As dental clinics reopened in later months, they did so with a robust set of new guidelines.
PPE items like goggles, face masks and face shields are required for all staff at a dental clinic now. In response to the added threat of aerosol infection, dentists are relying on high velocity suction tools to combat aerosol spray. In addition, hand tools are primarily used for cleaning versus ultrasonic tools that create a much larger spray when in use. So in short the ADA does agree with the WHO recommendation, but only if the new standard of precautions cannot be enacted in an office. Dentists in the US are not operating without these new precautions, and millions of patients are receiving safe care from their dental clinic.
Making Sense Of The Situation
Unfortunately the WHO statement has been sensationalized and taken out of context by certain media outlets. Even the WHO’s website page on the topic is rather brief on the details. The important thing to remember here is the WHO makes recommendations for the entire globe. What is not made clear in the statement is they are primarily concerned with developing countries with these new guidelines. Those countries with major PPE shortages and a lack of high tech suction instruments should postpone treatment for now. But that is simply not the case in the US. Our dental offices are prepared to operate safely without placing patients at risk.
Normal Care Is Still Vitally Important
As ADA President Chad Gehani states in his response: “Oral health is integral to overall health. Dentistry is essential health care.” We too do not recommend postponing routine cleanings. Just like a checkup with your doctor, a routine cleaning can unearth more significant problems and catch them before they get worse. If you have any concerns about COVID-19 safety in our office, we encourage you to reach out. We can walk you through our procedures step by step or address your individual concerns before you come into the office. Contact us today to get your 6 month cleaning schedule back on track.