SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- The World Health Organization, WHO, is advising people to delay non-emergency dental work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO recommends patients wait to get dental work done until there’s a significant decrease in case numbers. WHO says the new advisory reason is that hygienists and dentists often work in close face-to-face contact with patients.
The organization says this could expose dental staff to saliva, blood, and other bodily fluids, causing dental procedures to be potentially high risk for both staff and patients.
WHO also says the use of dental equipment produces particles and sprays particles in the air, meaning the aerosols can lead to rapid contamination and potential for infection.
Springfield dentist, Dr. Howard Shayne of Fox Grape Family Dentistry, says it is still safe to go to the dentist.
“Most of us have implemented many additional steps and practices in our office that make it completely safe to go to the dental office, including for routine care. You know, dentistry has always practiced what we call universal precautions, which means eyewear, gloves, masks, amongst many things. When we used to practice what we call universal precautions, we now are practicing, what I would call universal precautions on steroids,” says Dr. Shayne.
WHO says dental practices should follow social distance guidelines, use PPE, and wear goggles.
“We have implemented additional things to add to our traditional universal precautions. For example, if we just wore eyewear and a mask previously, now many of us wear face shields in addition to that. Many of us have instituted external vacuum systems that pull the aerosol away as we’re working. It takes it away from the patient and takes it away from us. So, I don’t disagree that dentists and patients are at risk because of the aerosolization. But if handled properly, it is perfectly safe,” adds Dr. Shayne.