English dentists given updated guidance on treatment during pandemic
LONDON, UK: Though it has been more than three months since dental practices in England began to reopen after lockdown restrictions were relaxed, guidance on how to safely treat dental patients continues to be updated. On 28 August, Chief Dental Officer (CDO) for England Dr Sarah Hurley wrote to dental practices across the nation, detailing the revisions made in the latest versions of Standard Operating Procedure: Transition to Recovery and COVID-19 Guidance and Standard Operating Procedure, which now include more validated evidence and expert consensus.
The UK is one of a number of countries to have recently experienced a spike in SARS-CoV-2 cases, currently recording more than 1,000 new cases daily. Although the World Health Organization last month said that routine dental check-ups should be delayed in order to protect dental patients and staff, strict infection control measures have enabled an increasing number of practices in England to recommence face-to-face consultations.
Fallow period can potentially be reduced
Among the measures that English dental practices must follow is a requirement of 60 minutes of fallow time after the performance of an aerosol-generating procedure (AGP). According to the CDO’s recent letter, this provides time for potentially infectious droplets and aerosols to be removed from the air.
However, the letter also states that if a dental practice is able to achieve ten to 12 air changes per hour in a single room—achievable through the use of certain ventilation systems—it is then permitted to reduce the fallow time to 20 minutes. In doing so, qualifying practices will likely be able to offer AGPs to patients at a faster rate.
The British Dental Association was among those to applaud the move, stating in a press release: “We welcome this pragmatic approach as a step in the direction of improving the capacity of dentists providing services to patients, and we look forward to more guidance as things develop.”