Oral Health

Our members promote oral health to a full multidisciplinary audience.  We partner with other human service providers, integrate oral health with overall health, have input into environmental and health care delivery issues, and disseminate research findings to the broadest possible audience.

Woman getting teeth examinedBoy brushing a model of teeth

March 17, 2020 — American Public Health Association Oral Health Section Statement on COVID-19

As members of the American Public Health Association Oral Health Section, we are committed to making science and facts available to our colleagues in the oral health profession and promoting public health. During the time of COVID-19, this is especially true.  Based on currently available information about COVID-19 and consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association, the Oral Health Section of APHA advises all dental offices and clinics to voluntarily limit dental care to emergencies and urgent situations only.  Based on the current situation of COVID-19 in the United States and the high risk for transmission in a dental setting, this is the best way to protect our dental health care workers and our communities.  We recognize that this will likely result in financial hardship, but this preemptive measure will give us all a better chance of preventing a longer, more severe financial hardship.

Current CDC guidelines advise postponing non-emergency or elective dental procedures for patients with signs or symptoms of respiratory illness. Since the transmission of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is thought to occur among asymptomatic cases, it would be reasonable to postpone all non-emergency treatment to prevent unintentional exposure to the dental team and their families.

Additionally, current CDC guidelines recommend the use of an N95 respirator when performing an aerosol-generating procedure on a patient with suspected COVID-19. Standard precautions for a dental setting would dictate that we assume all dental patients have COVID-19. Therefore, the use of an N95 mask would be indicated for all aerosol-generating procedures. The healthcare industry is currently experiencing a shortage of N95 masks, and it would be irresponsible for dental providers to use up scarce resources on elective non-emergency procedures.

We understand this is an evolving situation. We encourage all dental providers to view the CDC COVID-19 Situation and their local health department webpage regularly for current recommendations. We have every confidence in our dental community’s ability to make these clinical decisions with kindness, courage, and concern for the common good of our communities.

Josefine Ortiz Wolfe, PhD, RDH, CHES
Chair, Oral Health Section
American Public Health Association