CHICAGO (News Nation) — The World Health Organization recommends that people postpone routine dental cleanings until there’s a sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates from community spread.
The U.N. agency issued new guidance to delay dental cleanings, oral health checkups and other preventative care due in part to dentists’ contact with patients.
“Oral health care teams work in close proximity to patients’ faces for prolonged periods. Their procedures involve face to-face communication and frequent exposure to saliva, blood, and other body fluids and handling sharp instruments,” the WHO states. “Consequently, they are at high risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or passing the infection to patients.”
There is currently no data on the spread of coronavirus from the dentist’s chair, the agency said, calling for more research into common procedures that produce tiny floating particles that may cause infection if inhaled. These include three-way air/water spray, ultrasonic cleaning equipment that removes deposits from the tooth surface, and polishing, the WHO said in new guidance.
The agency is advising dentists to help guide patients on maintaining proper dental hygiene through video-conferencing or social media, News Nation affiliate KRON-TV reported.
WHO said anyone seeking urgent or emergency oral health care should do so immediately.
“Timely management of urgent or emergency oral health care interventions helps patients avoid seeking treatment at hospital emergency departments, thereby ensuring that they remain available to serve individuals seeking COVID-19-related care,” the agency wrote.
Dentists should also practice social distancing, space out appointments and wear face shields and other personal protective equipment, WHO said.
Dental facilities must have adequate ventilation to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in closed settings, an agency official said on Tuesday.
“We think that the most pressing issue is related to the availability of essential personal protective equipment, PPE, for all health care personnel undertaking or assisting in the clinical procedures,” said Benoit Varenne, a WHO dental officer.
Reuters contributed to this report.