The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecendented global public health crisis. To manage the threat of continued SARS-CoV-2 infection and the risk to public health caused by COVID-19, oral health professionals need up-to-date information and guidance.
The dental profession is particularly at risk, due to the possibility of aerosols produced by saliva droplets. These droplets can be inhaled, come into contact with skin or mucous membranes, and/or lodge on the surfaces of the dental office or other materials used during the dental appointment where hands can then be contaminated.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The 2019 novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, is a new strain that has not been identified in humans before. The infectious disease that is caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called COVID-19.
COVID-19 attacks the airways and can be transmitted by respiratory droplets expelled through the nose or mouth when the individual coughs or sneezes. It can also be transmitted indirectly through the contact of the hands or mucous membranes with the contaminated inert surface. Reports differ on the number of days that the virus can survive on those surfaces.
Guidance for oral health professionals
We urge you to consult your national government guidelines and recommendations on COVID-19. As oral health professionals, you are invited to refer to your own national dental association to obtain specific and up-to-date guidance in your own context.
You may also consult the FDI Policy Statement on Infection Prevention and Control in Dental Practice.
Important resources for oral health professionals
Information on personal protective equipment
Open access journal articles
Protection measures for everyone
According to the World Health Organization, you can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
- Maintain at least a 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
- Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.