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Australian and New Zealand dental associations provide guidance on minimising COVID-19

By Brendan Day, DTI
March 19, 2020

SYDNEY, Australia: Though their geographic distance from Europe and Asia has proved to be somewhat of an advantage in controlling SARS-CoV-2, both Australia and New Zealand have experienced a substantial rise in COVID-19 cases in recent days. The pandemic’s growing presence has caused health and dental bodies from each nation to issue guidance for dental professionals so that the virus’s transmission can be minimised.

In Australia, concerns over a growing shortage of protective masks were somewhat alleviated on 8 March when Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced that medical and dental professionals would receive 54 million more masks. According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), the country’s dental workforce uses approximately 9.5 million facemasks per month.

“The wearing of masks is a standard component of infection control and prevention in dental practice,” Prof. Sharon Liberali, chair of the ADA Infection Control Committee, told Dental Tribune International.

According to Liberali, dental professionals should maintain a high standard of infection control, including delaying any non-urgent dental appointments for patients suspected of having contracted COVID-19 or who have been in contact with a confirmed case in the previous 14 days. She said: “The ADA has advised its members that they should screen patients who may have travelled recently to affected regions and recommends that non-urgent dental treatment for these patients be delayed.”

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has a website dedicated to updates on the current situation regarding COVID-19. In addition, the Dental Council of New Zealand (Te Kaunihera Tiaki Niho) has a COVID-19 guidance page that outlines a number of infection prevention and control standards that oral health professionals must follow, including “the wearing of masks, use of alcohol-based hand rubs, reprocessing of reusable items and cleaning of all surfaces, equipment and instruments”.

Dental professionals in New Zealand are also advised to “proactively communicate with patients when they are requesting appointments” so that the patients can be aware of COVID-19’s signs and symptoms and to strongly encourage patients who display these symptoms not to visit their practice.

According to data from the World Health Organization, on 17 March Australia had 375 confirmed cases of the virus and had reported 5 deaths, and New Zealand had 11 confirmed cases.

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