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Is it safe to go to the dentist? ADA disagrees with WHO over stance on routine dental care

The American Dental Association disagrees with the World Health Organization, which is advising people to postpone “routine non-essential oral health care.”

Is it safe to go to the dentist? ADA disagrees with WHO over stance on routine dental care
[Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels]

The American Dental Association to the World Health Organization: Bite me.

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The group of American dentists has released a statement disagreeing with the WHO for advising people to postpone what the latter described as “routine non-essential oral health care.”

For the masticating masses, that essentially means regularly scheduled checkups.

“Oral health is integral to overall health,” ADA president Dr. Chad Gehani said in a written statement. “Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing, or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.”

He pointed out that back in March when the pandemic really started to blow up, the ADA asked its members to hold back on everything but emergency work. The national dental group and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drafted guidelines for the industry. Those include wearing masks, goggles, and face shields; using rubber dams and high-velocity suction; and removing plaque by hand.

On August 3, the WHO released what it called its interim guidance for the dental industry.

“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. Consequently, they are at high risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or passing the infection to patients,” it reads.

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The ADA is fighting back tooth and nail—and it has a strong business incentive to do so: Its most recent forecast shows that spending on dental care in the United States will drop as much as 38% this year and 20% in 2021.

“Millions of patients have safely visited their dentists in the past few months for the full range of dental services. With appropriate PPE, dental care should continue to be delivered during global pandemics or other disaster situations,” Gehani said.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans said they’re less likely to visit their dentists due to COVID-19, according to a survey by Guardian Life Insurance in May. And 15% said they felt the pandemic had negatively impacted their oral health.

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