Department of Health releases revised dental health care guidance for treating patients during COVID-19 pandemic
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on May 8 released the revised dental health care guidance as part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s strategic, phased COVID-19 reopening plan. Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine have revised their business closure orders issued March 19 to remove the prohibition on non-urgent and non-emergent dental procedures. Those orders were issued May 7.
“We want to make sure that dental practices are operating in a way that protects everyone working in the dental office, patients and community,” Levine said. “If a practice does not have the proper personal protective equipment to perform procedures, then they simply cannot operate. However, we also realize that we do not want to create additional public health needs after the pandemic related to dental issues. By taking appropriate precautions, dentists across Pennsylvania can provide necessary public health treatments in a safe and effective way.”
Dental providers must follow protocols outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration for all procedures. If they are unable to follow protocols, then the procedure should not be done. Providers may perform non-aerosolizing, non-urgent and non-emergent care only if proper personal protective equipment, per OSHA guidance, is available for all dental care practitioners, including dental hygienists. Providers should regularly check CDC guidance when providing care as recommendations and guidance could change frequently.
All patients should be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before arriving at the practice and social distancing should be maintained while in the practice. Patients should wash or sanitize their hands frequently and wear a mask when not undergoing treatment. Tele-dentistry should continue when possible as patients may be able to be treated virtually with antibiotics and pain medication.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Repeating shaking with chills
Loss of taste or smell
Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.