On August 3rd, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidance for the provision of dental services.
The paper, titled, “Considerations for the provision of essential oral health
services in the context of COVID-19,” recommends that dental patients defer “non-essential” dental care until case counts and community transmission rates of the COVID-19 virus drop.
The WHO defined essential dental services as “Urgent or emergency oral health care may include interventions that address acute oral infections; swelling; systemic infection; significant or prolonged bleeding; severe pain not controllable with analgesia; oral health care interventions that are medically required as a pre-intervention to other urgent procedures; and dental/orofacial trauma. If an oral health care professional is in doubt, referral to a specialized treatment facility must be ensured.”
On August 4th, the CDC also released updated guidance that stated in part, “As dental healthcare facilities begin to restart elective procedures in accordance with guidance from local and state officials, there are precautions that should remain in place as a part of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dental settings should balance the need to provide necessary services while minimizing risk to patients and dental healthcare personnel."
Keeping in mind that these statements are guidance and not mandates, it’s still not good news for dental practices.
Dentistry was disproportionately impacted by the initial wave of stay at home and shelter in place orders. Anything that might lead state, county, and/or city authorities to add restrictions to dental practices that have barely reopened would be a major hit to dentists’ bottom lines.
To be sure, the WHO guidance may have little impact on the functioning of U.S. dental practices. But practice owners should keep these sorts of announcements on their radar. It’s no secret that the war against COVID-19 isn’t going particularly well in most areas.
Since the first round of shutdowns was widely unpopular, and a second round would be even more so, politicians will look for “cover” when they have to make the hard decisions in the interest of public safety.
“Make Hay” Before It Rains Again
Everyone hopes that the U.S. will soon turn the corner on rising case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths. But it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of future restrictions on businesses and on dental practices in particular. That prospect is all the more likely if a severe flu season – typically beginning around October – is added to the ongoing pandemic.
Smart practice owners will do everything possible to maximize their current revenue now to prepare for the possibility of having to shut down again.
SmartBox has a host of products and services that can help dental practices ethically maximize the value of new and existing patients. Visit SmartBoxDental.com/about to learn more.
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