Routine dental procedures such as teeth cleaning are once again allowed in a majority of states.
While state guidelines have given the green light for dental offices to reopen after many of them shut down in March, that ignores the guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC does not have authority over dental practices, but it maintains that they should be open only for emergency procedures.
"There have been concerns raised by many of our members, as to why we are not listening to the CDC and postponing this care," Matt Crespin, president of the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), told CBS News.
The ADHA has more than 185,000 members.
More than 20% of dental practices have reported financial concerns during the coronavirus shutdown, so that is fueling the rush to reopen. Many of the hygienists who were asked to return to work said they were concerned about not having enough protective gear to keep them safe. Some have quit their jobs or were fired because of their reluctance.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has asked dental offices to remove all magazines and unnecessary items, according to CBS News. The ADA recommended that staff interview patients before they come in and ask for their recent medical history and whether or not they’ve been tested for the coronavirus. Some offices require temperature checks.
Dentistry is one of the most hazardous professions that seek to reopen. Many of the typical procedures done in the office generate aerosol clouds that can hold germs for up to three hours, increasing exposure to the dental staff and to others if a patient has the coronavirus.
ScienceDirect explained that an aerosol cloud is made up of particles and fluids produced during dental procedures using a rotary drill, an air syringe, or an ultrasonic scaler. It's been well-documented that infectious diseases are spread by aerosols, "increasing the risk to patients and the dental team."
Some dentists have installed office air-purification systems to help remove these aerosols, noted CBS.
The ADA recommended that dental personnel wear surgical masks, goggles, and disposable gowns for personal protection equipment (PPE). Crespin added that the coronavirus will lower the number of patients and staff in dental settings.
"This will change the way dentistry is practiced for sure," he told CBS. "Now, we'll have things like longer appointment times to allow aerosols to subside, and we'll eliminate the waiting room. The scary part is with the amount of PPE that provider is wearing, you're going to meet a provider who looks like an alien."
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