Dental Tribune America

New guidance issued for reopening American dental practices

By Brendan Day, DTI
June 01, 2020

WASHINGTON, U.S.: The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is still ongoing, and countless stakeholders in the dental industry are feeling its effects. In an attempt to return to some sort of normality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released updated guidance regarding dental services in the U.S. The advice is intended to expand the provision of nonemergency treatment while minimizing infection risks for patients and health care personnel alike.

To this point, the U.S. has been the country hardest hit by the coronavirus in terms of raw numbers, with 1,734,040 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 and 102,640 associated deaths as of June 1, according to the World Health Organization. On March 16, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommended the postponement of all dental procedures that were not urgent or emergencies. However, as certain states have relaxed local government mandates, dental practices have begun to reopen across the country.

Infection control a priority

CDC’s interim guidelines include greater detail on how to provide dental care to patients both with and without COVID-19 and feature recommendations on how dental professionals can reduce aerosol use through methods such as opting for hand scaling over ultrasonic scaling. To reduce the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, CDC recommends that dental staff regularly and thoroughly clean all dental equipment after use, as well as all surfaces in the areas where a patient has been.

According to ABC News, many American dental practices that have already reopened are screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms prior to checkups, taking their temperature and requiring them to wear protective face masks until any dental procedures commence.

US dental world continues to struggle

ABC News reports that many dental practices in the US have implemented SARS-CoV-2 screening measures such as temperature checks. (Image: Janon Stock/Shutterstock)

As reported previously by Dental Tribune International, the dental industry is facing unprecedented challenges owing to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The dental supply company Net32 recently conducted a survey of more than 1,000 dental practices across the U.S. and found that 90% of respondents were worried that they would be unable to procure personal protective equipment and other supplies in order to reopen their practices safely. In addition, 70% stated that they had already been forced to let staff members go as a result of the pandemic, whereas only 11% had been able to retain all of their staff at full pay.

Numerous dental companies have also been forced to readjust their earnings forecasts owing to historically unparalleled contractions in demand for dental equipment. Dentsply Sirona, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, reported that its net sales for the first quarter were down 7.6%, or 4.3% in organic terms, while Henry Schein, which operates out of Melville, New York, stated that its dental sales for the first quarter of 2020 were down 4.6% compared with the same period the previous year.

Whether the gradual reopening of American dental practices will help to alleviate current economic pressures remains unclear. The ADA has nonetheless recommended that U.S.-based dental professionals should continue to pay close attention to decisions issued by local and state governments regarding health care in case there are any changes to which treatment modalities can be offered.

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