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SARS-CoV-2 update: Australian and New Zealand dentists proceed with caution

By Brendan Day, DTI
June 26, 2020

SYDNEY, Australia: As the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues to rage across the world, the Antipodean nations of Australia and New Zealand have, by and large, managed to control the spread of the coronavirus to this point. As a result, both countries have been able to open up dental practices for many routine procedures, albeit with a heightened sense of cautiousness.

A near elimination of SARS-CoV-2 in New Zealand has seen federally imposed restrictions gradually reduced from Level 4 in April to Level 1 earlier this month. According to joint guidelines issued by the Dental Council of New Zealand (Te Kaunihera Tiaki Niho) and the Ministry of Health, this means that dental practitioners can provide routine dental care for patients who are not likely to be SARS-CoV-2-positive. In addition, the guidelines state that individuals who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 can be given emergency or urgent dental care provided that personal protective equipment requirements can be met.

“We strongly recommend that all dental practitioners follow the guidelines surrounding these Level 1 restrictions and engage in appropriate patient screening to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” a spokesperson for the New Zealand Dental Association told Dental Tribune International.

In Australia, community transmission rates of the coronavirus have remained low since peaking in late March, although a recent outbreak in Victoria has led to the southern state postponing the easing of certain restrictions regarding social gatherings. Regardless, dental practices across the country have been operating under lighter restrictions in recent weeks and there has been no indication of an increased spreading of SARS-CoV-2.

On 8 May, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee announced that restrictions would be decreased from Level 2 to Level 1, effective immediately. Like in New Zealand, the Level 1 restrictions mean that all routine dental treatments can be provided to patients provided that they do not present as at-risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2, while those who have tested positive for the virus can be treated in urgent cases. Under these Level 1 restrictions, dental procedures that generate aerosols, such as ultrasonic scaling and irrigation with dental handpieces, can now be conducted.

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