WHO Recommends Postponing Visits To The Dentist During The Pandemic
WHO recommends postponing routine dentist visits in areas with high community transmission of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization recommended postponing routine dental visits in areas with community transmission of COVID-19 in new guidelines released last week. 

Many dental procedures can generate aerosols, or tiny solid or liquid particles that contain disease-causing pathogens. If dentists were unknowningly treating coronavirus infected patients, aerosols laden with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could contaminate other surfaces, or infect staff or other patients if inhaled.

To minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading in dental care settings, WHO recommended that patients avoid seeking non-emergency oral care, such as routine check-ups or aesthetic treatments. Routine visits can resume once community transmission is controlled, and only clearly traceable clusters of infection are present in the community

In the meantime, service providers can offer phone or virtual consultation services for patients experiencing mild symptoms, including prescription of analgesics and antibiotics.

However, patients should still seek their dentist’s care in the case of dental emergencies, such as severe swelling, bleeding or intense pain. Seeking emergency oral care at the dental office can free up general emergency rooms for those with COVID-19 specific complications. Patients should call their clinics ahead of time, and confirm that they do not have COVID-19. 

Dental Workers Should Take Extra Precautions

Healthcare workers should take extra precautions to wear proper protective equipment and adhere to cleaning and hygiene protocols. Dental workers should wear respirators and full protective gear when performing aerosol-generating procedures. 

The guidance has encouraged installation of exhaust fans and whirlybirds or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to purify the air and maintain safe ventilation throughout the clinic. It warned against warned using air recirculation devices such as split conditioners, which can disperse droplets or aerosols containing the virus throughout a room. 

Appointments should be adequately spaced out, and patients should arrive alone, wear a mask, and keep at least 1 metre apart from other patients in the waiting room

Before starting any procedure, the patient should gargle with 1% hydrogen peroxide or 0.2% povidone iodine for 20 seconds and spit in a disposable cup instead of spittoon. All surfaces should be cleaned, and instruments should be sterilized and disposed after each clinic visit. 

WHO recommends that patients who have confirmed COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms seek care for dental emergencies in care centers trained to safely care for coronavirus patients.

Image Credits: Flickr: locomomo.

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