Experts review recommendations for returning to dental practice
MANCHESTER, UK: Restrictions related to SARS-CoV-2 transmission are easing, and dental professionals need to start planning the eventual reopening and restructuring of dental clinics. To offer best practices for reopening and assist policymakers and decision makers with producing comprehensive national guidance, experts from across the UK have recently reviewed various reports on national recommendations for returning to normal clinical working practices after the lockdown.
The guidance documents on the current requirements for the reopening of dental services were published by international organisations and professional bodies and reviewed by a group of researchers and clinicians led by Prof. Janet Clarkson from the University of Manchester and Prof. Craig Ramsay from the University of Aberdeen.
The researchers identified sources from 11 countries and found that relevant recommendations fell into five themes, namely practice preparation, use of personal protective equipment, management of the clinical area, dental procedures, and cleaning and disinfection procedures.
The findings showed that all sources emphasised the need to focus on activities that minimise the risk of transmission to staff, patients and the public, but still support high-quality clinical care. This, according to the reports, could be achieved by using preoperative mouthwashes, high-volume suction, dental dams and personal protective equipment.
The majority of the sources recommend patient triage by telephone, while some recommend temperature screening at reception. Most sources recommend the avoidance of aerosol-generating procedures.
The researchers reported that the findings indicated a strong need for clarity regarding effective cleaning and disinfection processes, including the impact on patient scheduling practices and efficient practice workflow. Additionally, they noted an apparent lack of referencing and evidence to support the majority of the statements made in the guidance papers.
“There is now an urgent need to map out how dental services are to return to providing wider patient care. Given that we have only really known about COVID-19 for about 120 days, robust evidence to inform how to approach reopening is scarce or non-existent,” Clarkson explained. “The same concerns exist across the world and, therefore, we decided to formally review the recommendations being produced in different countries as a resource for decision makers.”
“The review collates the range of recommendations related to each theme from the various sources identified. I would like to stress that this review is not guidance but, in the absence of robust evidence, it should assist policymakers and decision makers in producing national guidance for their own settings,” Clarkson concluded.
According to the available information, it is likely that dental practices in the UK will resume normal service from 4 July, when businesses such as bars, cinemas and hotels are also planned to reopen.
The review, titled Recommendations for the Re-opening of Dental Services: A Rapid Review of International Sources, was published on 6 May 2020 on the Cochrane Oral Health website.