COVID-19International News

WHO Advises People to Delay Non-Essential Trips to the Dentist

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises people to delay routine non-essential oral health care until there is a sufficient reduction in Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission in the community.

Below is the list of the non-essential oral health care and emergency oral health care, and how COVID-19 can be transmitted in oral health care settings provided by WHO.

Routine Non-essential Oral Health Care

According to WHO, routine non-essential oral health care usually includes the following:

  • Oral health check-ups
  • Dental cleanings
  • Preventive care
  • Aesthetic dental treatments

Emergency Oral Health Care

Although non-essential oral health care routines are suggested to be delayed, emergency oral health care interventions necessary to preserve a person’s oral functioning and manage severe pain should still be provided.

Emergency oral health care may include the following:

  • Interventions that address acute oral infections
  • Interventions that address swelling
  • Interventions that address systemic infection;
  • Interventions that address significant or prolonged bleeding
  • Interventions that address severe pain not controllable with analgesia
  • Medically required oral health care interventions as a pre-intervention to other urgent procedures
  • Interventions that address dental/orofacial trauma

COVID-19 Transmission in Oral Health Care Settings

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, transmission can occur through direct, indirect, or close contact with infected people. In oral health care settings, COVID-19 can mainly be transmitted in the following ways:

  • Direct transmission through inhalation of droplets generated through coughing or sneezing
  • Direct transmission via exposure of mucous membrane such as eye, nasal or oral mucosa to infectious droplets
  • Indirect transmission via contaminated surfaces

According to WHO, aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) – any medical, dental, and patient care procedure that results in the production of airborne particles – are widely performed in oral health care settings worldwide.

If inhaled, the airborne particles produced via AGPs can not only remain suspended in the air but can also travel over a distance and may cause infection.

Since oral health care teams work in close proximity to their patients’ faces and in frequent exposure to body fluids such as saliva, they are at high risk of either being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or passing the infection to their patients.

For Oral Health Care Personnel

Public health authorities, chief dental officers at ministries of health, and oral health care personnel working in private and public health sectors may download WHO’s Interim Guidance for other useful information with regards screening and triaging of patients, ventilation in oral health care settings, protection of oral health care personnel and patients during treatment, and more.

The said guidance is called the Considerations for the provision of essential oral health services in the context of COVID-19 and it has been published by the World Health Organization on August 3, 2020.

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World Health Organization (WHO)

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