General dentists in Ireland have signed a letter to the editor to The Irish Times, the nation’s largest newspaper, in response to their government’s lack of guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The dentists asked for a resonse from Dr. Dympna Kavanagh, the Ireland Department of Health’s chief dental officer, but they have not received a response yet.
These dentists are seriously concerned about the inevitable closures of dental practices and the rampant spread of the virus, all without clear governmental directions. The Irish Dental Association also is prodding the Department of Health into action to protect the public’s safety and welfare.
The dentists are most concerned about the generation of dental aerosols, which could potentially carry the virus. The professionals are at odds with the Department of Health’s advice, which is different from the advice from the departments of health in other nations and jurisdictions. The dentists contend that elective dental procedures must stop. Otherwise, these professionals assert, even more lives in their vulnerable and elderly populations in particular will be lost.
In March 16 correspondence, Kavanagh advised Irish dentists that dental practices could remain open and that there was no current need to change practice. She also told dentists that there was no need to avoid certain procedures.
“We’ve worked over the last 35 years with HIV, Hep B and C, and run surgeries that are akin to mini operating theaters,” said John Seward, BDS, of Cork City, who signed the letter to The Irish Times.
“We’re urged to social distance, but our profession works close to where this virus resides. The aerosols that we generate 90% of the time are not wholly understood, as well as the time the virus can last in our surgery,” he said.
“I have two daughters in final year of nursing education. One is currently on the intensive care unit, where she’s treating COVID-19 intubated cases. My second daughter has had contact today (March 18, 2020) with a case awaiting a test result, which, if positive, will mean she will self-isolate tomorrow for 14 days.”
Dentists internationally are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. Doctors collectively support one another’s struggles to bring optimal guidelines and protocols in service to our nations’ patients. We observe and learn from each other in this time of crisis. Any tacit governmental policy of denial and/or ignorance is wholly unacceptable.
Dr. Davis practices general dentistry in Santa Fe, NM. He assists as an expert witness in dental fraud and malpractice legal cases. He currently chairs the Santa Fe District Dental Society Peer-Review Committee and serves as a state dental association member to its house of delegates. He extensively writes and lectures on related matters. He may be reached at email@example.com or smilesofsantafe.com.