WHO urges postponing dental checkups during pandemic

WHO urges postponing dental checkups during pandemic
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The World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending routine dental visits be postponed until COVID-19 is under control to help protect dentists and their patients.

Oral health checkups, dental cleanings and other preventive care should be delayed until transmission rates drop in communities because dentists work in “close proximity to patients’ faces for prolonged periods,” WHO said in guidance released Tuesday.

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

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Exceptions should be made for urgent care and emergencies, WHO said.

The global health body noted the risks of spray-generating equipment in dental settings that may produce aerosols, including cleanings with ultrasonic scalers, polishing and other devices. 

Aerosols can lead to “rapid contamination of surfaces and potential for the infection to spread,” WHO said.

The guidance also recommended that all personnel continuously wear medical masks, or use face shields if masks are in shortage, in addition to increasing ventilation in offices and regularly disinfecting surfaces.