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WHO Urges People to Delay Routine Dental Work Due to Virus Risk

Monday, August 11, WHO advises delaying non-essential dental work until COVID-19 transmission rates drop, cautioning against procedures that aerosol spray from patients’ mouths.

The World Health Organization said check-ups, dental cleanings, and preventive care could be postponed, as it released guidance for dentists on how to minimize the risk of transmission during the coronavirus pandemic.

In guidance dated August 3, the WHO issued recommendations for the provision of essential oral health services in the context of COVID-19. The guidance, which is addressed to public health decision-makers and dental providers, recommends prioritizing essential dental care and the delaying of nonessential dental care where COVID-19 is in an area of community spread.

WHO guidance also advises that oral health-care providers follow recommendations from local officials, be they on the national or community level.

The guidance then states as follows: “WHO advises that routine non-essential oral health care—which usually includes oral health check-ups, dental cleanings, and preventive care—be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates from community transmission to cluster cases or according to official recommendations at national, sub-national or local level. The same applies to aesthetic dental treatments. However, urgent or emergency oral health care interventions that are vital for preserving a person’s oral functioning, managing severe pain, or securing the quality of life should be provided.”

If possible, WHO said patients should be remotely screened before their appointment. The WHO also said that dentists were at high risk of being infected with COVID-19.

“Oral health care teams work in close proximity to patients’ faces for prolonged periods,” the organization said.

“Their procedures involve face-to-face communication and frequent exposure to saliva, blood, and other body fluids and handling sharp instruments. Consequently, they are at high risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or passing the infection to patients.”

In a news briefing, Benoit Varenne, WHO Dental Officer, “WHO guidance recommends in case of community transmission to give priority to urgent or emergency oral cases, to avoid or minimize procedures that may generate an aerosol, prioritize a set of clinical interventions that are performed using an instrument and of course to delay routine non-essential oral health care,”

“The likelihood of COVID-19 being transmitted through aerosol, micro-particles or airborne particles, today I think is unknown, it’s open to question at least. This means that more research is needed,” he added.