WHO calls for routine dental checkups to be delayed until Covid-19 risk is known

As dental professionals return to work following lockdown, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for a delay in routine dental checkups until the full risk of the spread of Covid-19 is known.

WHO states that there is currently no data on the spread of coronavirus from the dentist’s chair, while adding that more research is needed into common procedures that produce tiny floating particles that may cause infection if inhaled. These include three-way air/water spray, ultrasonic cleaning equipment that removes deposits from the tooth surface, and polishing. Dental facilities must have adequate ventilation to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in closed settings, WHO added.

“WHO guidance recommends in case of community transmission to give priority to urgent or emergency oral cases, to avoid or minimise procedures that may generate aerosol, prioritise a set of clinical interventions that are performed using an instrument and of course to delay routine non-essential oral health care,” said Benoit Varenne, a WHO dental officer. “The likelihood of Covid-19 being transmitted through aerosol, micro-particles or airborne particles … today I think is unknown, it’s open to question at least. This means that more research is needed.”

Last month, WHO released general guidelines on the transmission of the coronavirus, which acknowledged some reports of airborne transmission, but stopped short of confirming whether the virus spreads through the air.

“We think that the most pressing issue is related to the availability of essential personal protective equipment, PPE, for all health care personnel undertaking or assisting in the clinical procedures,” Varenne concluded.