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Dentist groups disagree with WHO recommendation to postpone routine visits

A few dental associations around the country disagree with the WHO's guidance to delay trips to the dentist if numbers of COVID-19 cases are high in the area.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Several dental groups around the U.S. have said that they disagree with the World Health Organization's recommendation to postpone routine visits to the dentist during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The California Dental Association and American Dental Association say they "strongly disagree" with the WHO's guidance this month that routine, non-essential dentist visits, including check-ups, cleanings and preventive care, should be delayed. 

The WHO urged on Aug. 3 that trips to the dentist be held off until there has been sufficient reduction in transmission rates of the coronavirus, from community spread to cluster cases or according to recommendations by federal, state and local officials. The organization did say that urgent or emergency dental care should not be postponed because it can lead to more severe health issues.

The ADA agreed last week that healthy mouths are important to a person's overall condition but "respectfully yet strongly" disagreed with the WHO's recommendation, saying dentistry is essential health care.

“Oral health is integral to overall health,” ADA President Dr. Chad P. Gehani said in a statement. “Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.” 

Dr. David Kimberly with the Ohio Dental Association agrees that routine visits can be important to find other issues that show in the mouth, from diabetes to some cancers and liver illnesses.

“There are all types of diseases that are often caught by dentists before their general physicians,” Kimberly said.

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Dentists like Dr. Brad Boeke in the Dallas area say it is part of their responsibility to make sure the office is safe and clean for patients and staff.

"Dentists have been practicing infection control since the HIV crisis of the '80s. We were wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) before we knew it was called PPE," Boeke said. "We've been practicing this kind of disinfection for 25-30 years so this is nothing new for us."