As healthcare providers are overwhelmed by the growing number of COVID-19 cases, the California Dental Association (CDA) is encouraging dentists with their knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and sterile surgical techniques to register with the state’s Disaster Healthcare Volunteers website.
The registration process gives dentists options to determine the level at which they wish to volunteer, including two trained and ongoing emergency response teams:
Providers may choose either of these response teams or another option to participate in county-level response and volunteer on a single-event basis. Registration will allow local hospitals with the most need to utilize dentists’ skills. The assistance that dentists can provide may include:
- Taking vital signs
- COVID-19 testing
- Treating emergencies, including providing local anesthesia and suturing
- Administering oxygen
- Administering injectables, including vaccinations
- Writing prescriptions
Oral surgeons and dentist anesthesiologists have additional training and can intubate and provide deep sedation or general anesthesia services, the CDA adds.
Based on lessons learned from the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, changes were made in California law to allow flexibility on scope and licensure during catastrophic emergencies.
The law also provides immunity from liability for care provided “in good faith” during an emergency for a person who “voluntarily and without compensation or expectations of compensation, and consistent with the dental education and emergency training that he or she has received, provides emergency medical care to a person during a state of emergency.”
Along with skilled assistance, the CDA says that hospitals and local emergency authorities across California need donations of spare personal protective equipment. Dentists may donate the following items that they don’t anticipate using for emergency care:
- N95 masks
- Surgical masks
- Face shields
- Hand sanitizer
The CDA encourages dentists to deliver supplies directly to places in their need in their communities such as hospitals and emergency services departments. Dentists may contact their local dental societies if they need guidance on where to deliver supplies. Many dentists, including oral surgeons and endodontists, are still accepting referrals for emergency care only while they have supplies.
The CDA Foundation has donated a supply of 15,000 masks, 25,000 gloves, and 2,000 gowns to a southern California hospital in an effort to protect medical professionals providing care during the pandemic.
As healthcare workers, the CDA says, dentists fully understand the importance of having adequate supplies of PPE to help prevent the spread of diseases. Protecting healthcare workers who are directly caring for sick patients during the pandemic is paramount to reduce the risk to our families, friends, and communities, the CDA says.
Further information about the CDA’s response to the pandemic is available online.