Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on infection and control for dental offices.
The updates consider the unique characteristics of dental settings – particularly those in which the most critical services are carried out – that warrant specific infection control measures.
Topics in the update include screening, infection control protocols, and emergency procedures.
The result is a higher priority on care that minimizes harm to patients from delaying care and potential exposure to them and staff members.
Among the updates, dental staff are urged to screen for a new fever temperature threshold. Under the new definition, fevers must be at least 100F degrees or align with the CDC’s subjective standard, outlined in its Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease.
Areas with moderate to substantial community transmission must be treated with extra care. CDC recommends that dental health professionals wear eye protection in addition to facemasks when treating area patients not suspected of being infected. It will ensure the eyes, nose, and mouth are all shielded from potential exposure.
In addition, dental offices are urged to use N95 respirators or other protective equipment that match or exceed the level of protection, especially during procedures that generate aerosols.
Through revised language, the CDC also advises dental practitioners that protective eyewear or safety glasses with gaps do not sufficiently protect eyes from all sprays.
Topics about physical distancing and how to respond to exposures are also included. The interim guidance is based on the most current data and the current coronavirus situation in the United States.
It comes at a critical time. Dental practices have restarted elective procedures as they implement local and state guidelines that protect patients and staff.
Most of the updated language is not new and has been reorganized with recommended infection prevention and control, along with recommended IPC practices.
As so many have, dental practices should balance the need to deliver the necessary service and minimize risk to their patients and staff.
The updated framework is not the only guidance dental offices are following. They are also consulting with local information and region-specific requirements.