Back to work: evidence-based guidelines for safe dentistry after COVID-19
Dental organisation Alpha Omega has published a set of evidence-based protocols aimed at getting the dental profession back to work.
The document was also sent to key government officials, England’s chief dental officer (CDO), and major figures within the dental industry.
Titled ‘Returning to Dental Practice: Realistic considerations, practical solutions’, the guidelines are accompanied by an open letter to the profession. The full text is available here.
Alpha Omega says the document is written against the backdrop of the ‘overriding importance and context of maintaining the government’s concerns for public health, reducing the R number and maintaining social distancing for as long as is necessary, to ensure public safety and stop the spread of [COVID-19]’.
It brings alive numerous working suggestions for general dental practices across the country.
Additionally, it calls on policy makers to recognise that the profession ‘already works within some of the strictest infection control standards’. It also points out the lack of reported cases of viral transmission from dentistry in similar outbreaks such as SARS and MERS.
Road map to normality
However, the letter features a stark warning about the impact of lockdown on the profession.
If the government pursues a ‘phased’ approach to reopening, it suggests ‘there will be no dental practice that can survive financially on that kind of work’.
Specifically, the document lays out how dental practices might return to providing aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) without contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
Professor Eddie Scher is the scientific chairman of Alpha Omega.
He said: ‘It is crucial that we start setting out a roadmap for how dental practices might return.
‘The current lockdown – while entirely necessary and supported by the profession – is unsustainable in the long term. It is going to have catastrophic effects on the oral health of the nation, and the financial health of dental practices and the dental industry if it continues unabated.
‘But from our understanding, few of the “official” bodies are considering how we might practically return to practice. That omission strikes us as dangerously short-sighted.
‘Alpha Omega cannot stand by without taking action to help set dentistry back on a safe and workable path to treatment.
‘By helping government and the CDO, we hope to play a part in helping patients access the care they need, safely and responsibly. We hope it helps dentists across the nation to get back to work while remaining vigilant to the threat posed by COVID-19.’
The letter continues: ‘We provide this letter to help the profession in finding a workable solution. It will allow us to safely deliver much needed and overdue care to our patients – and resume the normal functioning of the dental industry.’
It finishes: ‘[By reopening]… we can alleviate the suffering of the patients we have spoken to since shutting our doors and save significant time, resource and financial burdens from the government.’
The publication follows ‘hours of dedication’ from the AO scientific committee led by Drs Jonathan Lack, Richard Horwitz and Rob Pittack.
Alpha Omega claims to be the oldest international dental organisation in the world.
Its London chapter represents around 150 dentists. For more information visit https://alphaomegauk.co.uk.