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Guidance on Providing Dental Care During the Pandemic

DentaQuest Partnership and OSAP Provide Checklists, Tools

Dentists in full-face shields, surgical masks, gowns and gloves. Plastic barriers at the front desk. Patients getting their temperature taken upon arrival at the office.

Like nearly every aspect of society, going to the dentist will look much different in our COVID-19 world.

“It’s all about managing risk,” said Karen Gregory, RN, in a recent DentaQuest Partnership webinar. “We must look at all of this information as a way to ask, ‘What can I do to reduce the risk for myself or of my staff member getting sick and to keep my patients from getting sick?’”

Gregory, Director of Compliance & Education for Total Medical Compliance; Board Member, Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP), leads a taskforce — in collaboration with the DentaQuest Partnership — that recently released a new guide called “Best Practices for Infection Control in Dental Clinics during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The guide, highlighted on the webinar that drew nearly 1,000 providers from around the country, offers practical guidance for dental practices as they implement the many new national safety standards for providing care during the pandemic. 

“The reality is, this pandemic is going to be here for a while,” said Gregory. “As many practices have already moved into the reopening phase, we want to make sure everyone has the information on preventative measures needed to reduce risk going forward.”

Unpacking the Best Practices

The taskforce at the center of the collaboration between OSAP and the DentaQuest Partnership has two aims: 

  • Put current guidance and regulations from ADA, OSHA, ADHA and the CDC into a series of practical resources for dental care personnel 
  • Produce easy-to-understand communications about new safety measures and what patients can expect when they go back to the dentist (coming soon)

To get started, leaders, including Gregory, completed an extensive review and summarized from guidance released by leading healthcare agencies, addressing all the major aspects of providing dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guide has two parts — a practical checklist and a companion resources/tools section. Tools include:

“A change of this magnitude is going to impact the way everyone does their work,” Gregory explained on the webcast. "This resource is a one-stop-shop that dental health teams can use to determine where they have gaps and where they have areas in their organization that need improvement.”

Changes, Big and Small

In addition to the checklists and tools, on the webcast, Gregory highlighted many of the actions and changes that will become part of the daily operations at the dentist’s office:

  • Installing plastic barriers in place at reception, check-out and other areas where exposures may occur
  • Screening patients, employees and all team members, using screening questions and/or taking temperatures
  • Requiring face coverings for all patients and visitors
  • Enforcing physical distancing by spacing chairs in the reception area and monitoring patient flow through the practice
  • Wearing surgical masks or respirators for clinicians, providing a higher level of protection when performing certain clinical procedures
  • Increasing the use of teledentistry to triage patients and minimize risk and exposure

Other changes will be less visible, such as increasing air filtration in HVAC systems, ensuring proper sterilization and storage of equipment, and small changes to clinical procedures. Taken together, they will all work to provide a safer environment.

Of course, as the pandemic continues to evolve, so too will specific guidelines and requirements from the CDC, ADA, as well as state and local public health officials.

“Knowing what’s going on in your community and preparing to change your level of care is going to be critical as we go forward,” Gregory said. “At first glance, this all may seem overwhelming. But if best practices and safety procedures are in place, dentists and patients can feel good knowing that they have done everything they can to keep people safe.”

Watch the webinar or download the webinar slides: Best Practices for Re-Opening Dental Clinics