Routine dental procedures are important to overall health. But with the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus, the novel coronavirus, the American Dental Association is recommending postponing elective dental procedures.
David Sarrett, D.M.D., dean of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Dentistry and associate vice president for health sciences, has been among the leaders speaking up about the importance of dental practices scaling back to focus on urgent and emergency care and taking greater precautions during COVID-19’s spread.
Sarrett is a fellow in the American College of Dentists and a member of the ADA and the American Dental Education Association, among others. He has been a national leader with the ADA and currently serves on the Virginia Dental Association Board of Directors.
Sarrett shared his expert opinion this week in a video conversation with the Virginia Dental Association and answered questions. After speaking to his fellow dentists, Sarrett spoke with VCU News about when patients need to go to the dentist for emergency care and what dental practices can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
How were decisions made about recommendations to postpone elective dental procedures?
I am a member of the Virginia Dental Association Board of Directors. This past Sunday, as we were planning to stop elective dental care, the board held an emergency conference call. Members of the board had been in touch with ADA leadership or attending meetings at the ADA offices in Chicago. These board members recommended the closure of dental offices across Virginia for elective and routine dental care and only providing urgent care. I reported that we would support that 100%, based on our decision to shift VCU Dental Care’s practice to urgent- and emergency-only care.
The ADA recommendation came after the Virginia Dental Association and other states, such as Ohio, were already recommending this. I feel the VDA was a leader on this issue.
What does the ADA’s decision to recommend postponing elective procedures mean for patients?
Assuming dentists comply, or this becomes mandated by governments, they will have to delay most of the planned dental work and preventive visits. VCU Dental Care has developed a list of urgent care issues to determine if it is appropriate to treat the patient or delay treatment. This list can be found on our patient care website: vcudentalcare.com/covid19.
What kinds of dental procedures qualify as emergencies?
VCU Dental Care is now restricting treatment to urgent or emergency care only. We define this as:
- Severe toothache pain (on a pain scale of 1 to 10, a 5 or more that has lasted more than 24 hours)
- New or recent swelling of your gums or face (within the past three to seven days)
- Bleeding in your mouth that does not stop following tooth extraction or gum surgery
- Tooth infection
- Recent trauma (a broken tooth causing pain)
If I’m a patient, when should I go to