Although the American Dental Association has recommended that dentists postpone elective dental procedures during the COVID-19 outbreak, some patients with serious dental conditions or pain must still be seen.

Endodontists, specialists that make up 3% of dentists, will likely provide care for many of the most serious cases, including dental infection, pain and trauma.

Because the new coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes, and dentists work in the oral cavity, new guidance was needed for dental care.

To meet this need, a team of faculty members and dental residents from the Department of Endodontics in the School of Dentistry wrote new national guidelines that are now published on the American Association of Endodontists website.

The guidelines were written by dental residents Amber Ather, B.D.S., D.D.S., and Biraj Patel, B.D.S.; and faculty members Nikita B. Ruparel, M.D.S., D.D.S., Ph.D., Anibal Diogenes, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., and Kenneth M. Hargreaves, D.D.S., Ph.D., all from the Department of Endodontics.

Providers are encouraged to assess the seriousness of the dental concern when a patient calls for an appointment and prescribe antibiotics or pain medications, such as acetaminophen, if needed, for temporary relief.

Treatment for patients with confirmed COVID-19

If a patient has confirmed COVID-19 infection and must receive treatment, the guidelines recommend that special arrangements be made to provide care in a negative pressure room with the dental professional wearing personal protective gear.

Patients should use a special mouth rinse to reduce the concentration of the virus in the mouth prior to the procedure.

Dental professionals are advised to use disposable dental instruments and employ imaging that does not need to be placed in the mouth to reduce the possibility of the patient coughing.

The guidelines recommend against using ultrasonic instruments and high-speed handpieces which could cause the virus to become airborne.

Clinic staff are advised to disinfect surfaces in the operatory according to the latest guidance.

Read the new guidelines.