A healthy mouth is crucial to the health of the entire body. Dentistry is an Essential Service that must be available to the public at all times, especially during this pandemic. Dentistry and dentists are undervalued by the medical community and the population at large. This attitude was reflected in a recent recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO). The American Dental Association, the American College of Prosthodontists and other major dental organizations have released statements stating that they strongly disagree with WHO. While the dental community has always practiced stringent infection control and sterilization measures, they have greatly increased these measures to ensure patient safety.
An “Essential Business” provides products or services that customers require at all times, even during pandemics, natural disasters or community unrest. These businesses are permitted to remain open, whereas those that provide products or services that are for “comfort or entertainment” rather than “necessity” may be recommended to close.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a recommendation in August that patients should delay “routine” oral health care until there is a reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates. The last thing that people need is another reason not to go to the dentist. Well, that is exactly what the World Health Organization has done.
The fact that the health of the mouth impacts the entire body has been well documented. Research shows that there is an association between periodontal disease, tooth loss, cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease and preterm birth. Periodontal disease can worsen lung disease and complicate diabetes. There is a link between osteoporosis and periodontal disease. Tooth loss is associated with poor nutrition and oral cancer. Read More.
The idea that you don’t need to go to the dentist unless you have a problem with a tooth is a fallacy. Tooth decay can occur in areas that are not visible. A dental examination is necessary to ensure that your teeth are healthy. Read More
Dentists identify dental conditions that contribute to serious health issues and medical health problems during oral examination. Signs of anorexia, bulimia and drug use are evident from the gum tissues and teeth. A dentist’s cone beam CT scanner can identify a range of issues from chronic sinusitis to intracranial calcifications, multiple myeloma, soft tissue masses, osteoarthritis of the temporomandibular joint, degenerative cervical spine, and narrowing of the airway. Oral cancer screenings are conducted at every oral hygiene visit. Early detection improves treatment outcomes. Dentists save lives!
Dentists all over the country have increased their sterilization protocols. At Pi Dental Center, we have examined and updated our office practices, making improvements above and beyond those suggested by the Centers for Disease Control, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the American Dental Association. We have improved air quality, required mask wearing, provided Level-3 N-95 face masks, used face shields, conducted frequent disinfection procedures, introduced screenings and temperature checks and enforced social distancing. Read More.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have updated and reaffirmed their guidance for dental settings, which still allows for the delivery of care to patients when proper precautions and safety measures are followed.
American Dental Association:
The Dental Team is Essential. The American Dental Association (ADA) affirms that the oral health workforce is essential during public health emergencies. Government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency have already acknowledged dentistry as an essential service. Dental health is a fundamental component of a person’s overall health and dentistry is a vital health care service. Oral disease can affect systemic health. Dentistry is an essential service whether it's the current pandemic, a future epidemic or a natural disaster in a particular area. People need to be able to access the full range of dental services.
American College of Prosthodontists:
The American College of Prosthodontists (ACP) joins the American Dental Association (ADA) in respectfully yet strongly disagreeing with this WHO recommendation. We assert that dental care is an essential part of an individual’s overall health. As an organization we will continue to work with the ADA on advocacy efforts to designate dentistry as an essential service. The ACP encourages members to follow CDC, ADA, and state and local health official guidance regarding patient care.
American Academy of Periodontology:
“It is well-established science that periodontal disease and systemic disease are interconnected. As a result, establishing and maintaining healthy teeth and gums is fundamental to overall health,” said Dr. Bryan Frantz, American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) president. The AAP added there is limited evidence that dental offices pose an increased risk of spreading disease, including COVID-19.
Academy of General Dentists
The Academy of General Dentists (AGD) calls dental care an essential component of the overall healthcare model and notes that dental offices are practicing enhanced safety measures to address their patient needs during this time.
“Good oral health contributes to good overall health, and any recommendations against the continuum or oral care negatively impact dental patients,” said AGD president Connie L. White, DDS. “Delaying a dental visit may create further health issues and long-term problems.”
Oral cancer is a serious health problem and the oral hygiene/exam visit is crucial for identifying oral cancer. A delayed oral hygiene visit can mean the difference between a manageable lesion to something much more serious.
Oral health problems can actually make recovery from COVID-19 more difficult. Studies have linked gum disease to COVID-19 deaths. One study by U.S. dental surgeon Dr. Shervin Molayem and South African scientist Carla Pontes suggests COVID patients with gum disease are more susceptible to a respiratory crisis known as a cytokine storm, essentially an overreaction of the body’s immune system.
“Gum disease has been linked to other breathing ailments, including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, so we weren’t surprised to find a link to respiratory problems with COVID-19,” Molayem said in a press release. “What shocked us was the discovery of the protein’s devastating, life-threatening impact to patients once they’re hospitalized. One tiny, inflammatory protein robbed them of their ability to breathe!”
At Pi Dental Center, we have seen evidence that gingivitis can quickly turn into periodontitis. Just since the quarantine began, we have seen tooth loss in an adolescent orthodontic patient. Patients who have missed their regularly scheduled hygiene appointments have presented with advanced caries.
Many of Pi Dental Center’s patients are in the process of completing comprehensive treatment plans. Any delay in care can lead to a setback or worsening of the patient’s dental condition.
The dental Hippocratic Oath reminds dentists that prevention is preferable to cure of disease. Shutting dentistry down during the pandemic has forced dentists to break their Hippocratic Oaths.
Dentists are essential health care workers who should be afforded early access to a safe and effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine when one becomes available, stated ADA Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin. “There is little doubt that there will be a high demand for a safe and effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine once one becomes available — and doses of the vaccine will likely have to be rationed until production can meet the demand,” Dr. O’Loughlin stated.
“The vital role that dentists play in maintaining overall health and screening for systemic disease is critical to the health of the public,” Dr. O’Loughlin said.
“Dental care is absolutely ESSENTIAL and very much necessary to maintain a healthy balance for all populations, but especially for the mature adult population who may have already lost several teeth due to bone loss and periodontal disease. These populations are the most in need of close attention to minimize inflammatory disease which can affect the cardiovascular system,” stated Thomas Balshi, DDS, FACP, PhD.
Pi Dental Center continues to utilize the highest level of PPE available with stringent sterilization protocols and has complied with all regulations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state of Pennsylvania. As dentists, Drs. Wolfinger and Slauch have taken an oath to prevent disease whenever possible. They have a special obligation to their patients. They strive to realize this oath during this pandemic. Pi Dental Center provides a safe environment for patients and staff.