Put off routine dental visits until virus risk slows, WHO says

The World Health Organization on Tuesday began telling people to put off routine, non-essential visits to their dentist during the ongoing pandemic, warning of procedures that produce tiny floating particles from a person's mouth.

The United Nations health organization says dentists and hygienists are at higher-than-average risk of being infected by the novel coronavirus and passing it on to patients, citing close contact with their mouths and the use of spray generating equipment. 

"WHO advises that routine non-essential oral health care – which usually includes oral health check-ups, dental cleanings and preventive care – be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates from community transmission to cluster cases or according to official recommendations at national, sub-national or local level," the organization said in a release

Experts suggest waiting until there is a significant decrease in coronavirus infection rates before going in for routine care. However, patients should contact their dentist if they are in need of urgent or emergency oral care, according to WHO. They're advising that office's screen patients from home virtually if possible, or upon arrival. 

Dental facilities must have adequate ventilation to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in closed settings, the organization said. 

Oral health is highly important and WHO is urging dental providers to remotely provide tips for their patients on maintaining oral hygiene.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its own guidelines for dental providers. 

"As dental healthcare facilities begin to restart elective procedures in accordance with guidance from local and state officials, there are precautions that should remain in place as a part of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic," CDC said in a statement on Aug. 4. "Dental settings should balance the need to provide necessary services while minimizing risk to patients and dental healthcare personnel."

The CDC says dental offices need to safely teeter between providing necessary services while minimizing risk to patients and dental personnel. They, like WHO, urge dental providers to remotely screen patients before in-office visits.