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It’s no secret that dentists as well as patients undergoing dental procedures are at high risk of cross-infection of coronavirus as most dental procedures require a close contact between the doctor and the patients’s oral cavity, saliva, blood and respiratory tract secretions.
Keeping this in mind, the Union Health Ministry has advised that all patients must be treated with due precautions. The health ministry issued guidelines for the same.
The Health Ministry said, "Saliva is rich in COVID-19 viral load. Many patients who are asymptomatic may be carriers. For this reason, it is suggested that all patients visiting a dental office must be treated with due precautions."
Here are some of the guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry:
» Doctors should wear N95 face masks, protective eyewear/face shields and gloves along with coverall for high-risk and very-high-risk procedures. To increase the shelf life of N95 masks, doctors may cover them with a surgical mask and discard only the surgical mask after use
» When examining patients with moderate risks, the doctor should wear PPE except that the coveralls can be substituted with surgical gowns
» Dental professionals should ensure availability of sufficient three-layer masks, sanitisers and paper tissue at the registration desk, as well as nearby hand hygiene stations. There should be a distance of one metre between the waiting chairs
» Patients should not wear wristwatch, hand and body jewellery and should carry additional accessories and bags. Patients should use their own washrooms at home to avoid the need of using toilets at the dental facility. Patients should also wear a mask while visiting a dental clinic.
» Healthcare workers who are asymptomatic and do not fall under the category of being exposed to COVID-19 are not required to undergo a test before resuming to work in the clinics
» All asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 are advised to take HCQ prophylaxis after medical consultation
» Dental clinics in the COVID-19 containment zones will remain closed. However, dental professionals working at such clinics can provide tele-consultation to patients
» Emergency dental procedures can be performed in the dental facilities falling under ‘red’ zones
» The dental clinics in the orange and green zones can provide consultancy but such operations should be restricted to emergency and urgent treatment procedures only
» All routine and elective dental procedures should be deferred for a later review until new policy/guidelines are issued
» Due to the high risk associated with the examination of the oral cavity, oral cancer screening under the National Cancer Screening programme should be deferred until new policy or guidelines are issued
» The clinical conditions of dental origin, which require priority care but do not increase the patient’s death risk, are categorised as ‘urgent’ and those increasing the patient’s death risk are categorised as ‘emergency’