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GENEVA, Switzerland: The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak is causing significant disruption to dental practice worldwide. Oral health professionals, dental associations and regulatory bodies are facing diverse challenges to providing dental care and promoting the oral health of the population while protecting patients and practitioners from the health threat posed by SARS-CoV-2. The council of FDI World Dental Federation has now released a statement on dentistry and oral health during the pandemic.
As this is a new biological threat, there is a lack of knowledge about it and the tools with which it can be fought. Evidence about how SARS-CoV-2 is spread and infects people is currently lacking, and many of the public health decisions and recommendations in place are based on what is known about similar viruses. There is therefore a need to continuously review and update recommendations. Health professionals may need to update and change behaviours in line with evidence as it evolves.
FDI advises following national guidelines and regulations
In view of this, FDI has recommended several key principles for dental practice and oral health promotion during the current pandemic:
- Oral health is a fundamental component of overall health and well-being, and oral healthcare is an essential public service that must be made as broadly accessible as possible. Authorities should ensure regulations do not unnecessarily impede access to oral healthcare and should put measures in place to improve access where feasible. These measures could include teledentistry services, emergency clinics and oral health promotion initiatives.
- Oral health professionals and oral healthcare should be included in all discussions and decisions related to the regulation and guidance of healthcare delivery and health professionals during the pandemic.
- Where possible and relevant, authorities should provide appropriate financial and administrative support to dentists as business owners and liberal professionals and implement appropriate fiscal measures to reduce the financial burden on dental practices and ensure the continuation of adequate care during and after the pandemic.
- All regulations and guidance for oral health professionals and oral healthcare should take into account the current public health situation and needs of the country and not only the individual infection risk of practitioners and patients.
- Oral health professionals must strictly follow all national guidelines and regulations in place, including those relating to personal protective equipment (PPE), treatment procedures and patient intake procedures.
- Authorities should ensure easy access to PPE at a reasonable cost.
- Oral health professionals have a responsibility to provide emergency care whenever possible and as permitted by national regulations.
- Oral health professionals should take every opportunity to communicate and reinforce oral disease prevention messages in order to help reduce treatment need, avoidable dental visits and healthcare costs.
- Dental practice owners have a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of their staff and patients.
- Further research into SARS-CoV-2 and its transmission, including specific considerations for dental practice, is essential in order to allow appropriate guidance to be given.
The FDI COVID-19 resource library offers additional information on the topic.
FDI World Dental Development Fund accepts applications with focus on COVID-19 response
Furthermore, FDI is still accepting applications for the World Dental Development Fund (WDDF) until 15 June 2020. Application guidelines were recently amended to include projects that focus on the COVID-19 response. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. The fund backs initiatives that promote and improve oral health and prevent oral disease in limited-income areas with oral health needs.
FDI encourages applicants from within and outside its network. WDDF funding is available to non-members of FDI in addition to FDI regular and associate members. To be eligible for funding, non-member applicants must include an endorsement letter from a regular or associate FDI member national dental association. Previous applicants have included ministries of health, national dental associations, non-governmental organisations, hospitals and universities. FDI seeks projects that are designed to benefit individuals and communities with demonstrated oral health needs.
The WDDF supports innovative oral disease prevention and oral healthcare access programmes for disadvantaged communities around the world. The fund backs projects that bring about a positive impact on oral health in different settings. More information on the scheme, instructions on how to apply and details about ongoing WDDF projects can be found here.