The public needs all its healthcare heroes during the current health crisis

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued interim guidance on providing essential oral health services in the context of COVID-19, advocating that preventive dental care be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in transmission rates.

The American Dental Association (ADA); Delta Dental Plans Association (39 member companies); Northeast Delta Dental; the Boards of Dental Examiners in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and other dental industry leaders at the state and national levels respectfully disagree with WHO’s position on preventive care during the current health crisis.  

The WHO is a worldwide organization. Its interim guidance does not account for differences in safety practices and equipment around the world. In the United States, the ADA did recommend in March that dental practices suspend preventive care and focus on emergency procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments.

Thereafter, the ADA, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), developed rigorous safety, equipment and practice protocols designed to protect patients, dentists and dental auxiliary staff. In each state, local Boards of Dental Examiners presented these protocols to state reopening taskforces for recommendation to, and approval by, state government. State governments only permitted dental offices to reopen for preventive care when they were satisfied that dental offices could do so safely.

Dental offices are again open and providing a full range of dental services that are critical to the health and well-being of their patients. They follow safety protocols that are much more rigorous than usual, though dental offices are safety-conscious in the best of times. Many thousands of people nationwide have received routine dental procedures in the last few months without incident. The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) will document this more fully in an article in its upcoming issue.

On the topic of its interim guidance, one of WHO’s dental officers was quoted as saying, “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.” We agree. That’s why Northeast Delta Dental has distributed tens of thousands of masks and thousands of gowns to our network dentists and is helping them with the ongoing costs of PPE and other COVID-19 expenses.

As they plan their next visits, we encourage patients to contact their dentists to learn more about specific protocols in place for health and safety. Dental professionals are on the front lines of health care, with their expertise often detecting, and/or impacting, such diseases as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Let’s not limit our healthcare system’s ability to treat the whole patient by discouraging people from visiting their dentists, when both national and state public health authorities have determined that they can do so safely.

Tom Raffio, President & CEO Northeast Delta Dental

This entry was posted in COVID-19, Health, Oral Health and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The public needs all its healthcare heroes during the current health crisis

  1. Sharon Hall says:

    Congratulations on recognizing that WHO is not the be-all/end-all on what is appropriate and necessary. You go on to applaud the industry for developing “rigorous safety, equipment and practice protocols” to keep patients and office staff safer ( at a financial cost to the doctors for certain) which my dentist bought and used. I questioned the hygienist about the “Leaf” placed in my mouth and she explained that it helped cut down on the dispersion of Water droplets into the treatment area or room, thereby, in theory, hoping to reduce any chance of possible infection. However, Delta Dental refused to pay for that part of my treatment.

    • neddblog says:

      During the early stages of COVID-19 and beyond, Northeast Delta Dental has made it our priority to provide support to our participating dentists. In recognition for the difficulty and cost of obtaining the necessary PPE to open dental offices and to begin seeing patients once again, we implemented several programs. We distributed 110,000 KN95 masks for free to dental offices in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Our employees, board members, and several helpful participating dentists have personally delivered nearly 8,000 gowns to our participating dentists, and we are continuing this discounted program as supplies are available.

      From the onset of COVID-19, we communicated often with our stakeholders to determine what they needed and how to provide it most helpfully. Our response resulted in an investment of $27 million to support our customers, brokers, providers, employees, and communities.

      Our mission hasn’t changed. Healthy smiles are important, and we hope we’ve given all the people who depend on us something to smile about.

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