Though most dental practices have stopped routine care, emergency treatment continues around the world. Organized dental groups are now asking their respective governments to ensure the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The ADA is asking Congress to remember dental healthcare personnel in PPE distribution as they continue to treat urgent and emergency patients. The World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) which includes the FDI World Dental Federation, is doing the same with an open letter to the heads of state of the G20 governments.
In its letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Minority Leaders Kevin McCarthy and Chuck Schumer, the ADA said that it has urged its 163,000 members to provide essential care to keep emergency patients away from hospitals and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
Yet the also ADA noted that these practices are finding difficulties in obtaining appropriate PPE including N95 masks, with serious implications for the safety of dental professionals and patients alike. For example, dental treatment requires close proximity between individuals. Treatment frequently generates aerosols as well, increasing the risk of transmission.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that practices prioritize respirators for aerosol-generating procedures, the ADA said in the letter. Effective treatment during the crisis and afterward, the ADA added, requires access to proper PPE including N95 masks.
“As our dentists continue to provide emergency care during this pandemic and look to the future of protecting their patients, we must ensure that dentists are provided immediate access to proper PPE,” said ADA president Chad P. Gehani, DDS, and executive director Kathleen T’ O’Loughlin, DMD, MPH. “The availability of appropriate PPE will be critically important to minimize any risk of transmission during dental care.”
The World Health Professions Alliance
The WHPA represents more than 31 million health professionals worldwide in more than 130 nations, is asking the leaders of the G20 to take coordinated action to ensure the security of the PPE supply chain for all healthcare workers on the COVID-19 frontlines.
“Only by acting in cooperation, across borders, will we be able to ensure that PPE reaches those who are literally putting their lives on the line to save our people from coronavirus. And there is no room for destructive competition between countries,” the leaders of the WHPA said in their letter.
The WHPA also said that if the G20 doesn’t act now to secure the supply chain, more frontline caregivers including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and dentists will die as the organization is seeing increasing infection rates of the virus among these vital personnel.
“Healthcare staff are understandably frightened both for themselves and their families and despite their courage and commitment, some may seek to leave the profession or take industrial action, at a time when we can least afford to lose them,” said the leaders.
“Those that fall sick are unable to take care of their patients and in some countries the lack of testing means that it is not clear when they can return to work or if they are unknowingly carrying the virus,” the leaders said.
The WHPA further is asking all G20 leaders to put geopolitics aside to secure the PPE supply before more staff and patients are lost. Also, it said, a cooperative and consistent approach would help low-income countries that depend on high-income countries.
“In the face of a global pandemic, there is no room for national egos,” the leaders said.
The WHPA is asking G20 leaders to take immediate and adequate steps to reactivate and ensure PPE supply chains with speed and consistency through manufacturing, customs, procurement, and delivery.
“It is in your hands to do what is necessary,” the WHPA said, “before the lives of more health personnel and patients are lost. Any inactivity costs lives.”