09 May May 8 Presidential Update: Transitioning Back to Work
From IDA President Dr. Steve Ellinwood
The transition back into practice is not an easy one. From preparing the office to rescheduling a month’s worth of patients, a lot of groundwork needs to be done before reopening an office.
While Indiana was one of the first states to allow elective dental procedures to resume, there are still offices across the state who have chosen to remain closed—as is their right. Whether due to a lack of proper PPE, staff concerns, or your own concern with resuming practice, you should only reopen your office when you are ready, have the appropriate PPE, and feel comfortable providing care.
For those of you who have reopened, or are planning to reopen in the immediate future, below you will find two areas of concern the IDA has been working to address. We have received a lot of calls from concerned hygienists on these topics. Above all, remember this: You are the leader of the dental team, and it is your responsibility to communicate effectively with your staff and ensure that they be kept safe while working in your practice. A simple conversation can save more time than you know; be open and honest!
The Role of the CDC vs. The Power of a State Governor
Citing the CDC’s Interim Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Dental Settings During the COVID-19 Response, we have had several members reach out and express the opinion that dental offices should not be providing elective care in the first place. While as of April 27, 2020 the CDC’s recommendation encourages dentists to “postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent dental visits,” it is just that: a recommendation.
Further, earlier in the guidance, when explaining the enhanced role that state government will play during this pandemic, the CDC encourages dental healthcare providers to “consult their state dental boards or other regulating agencies for requirements specific to their jurisdictions, as information is changing rapidly.” That statement is accurate: Regional, state, and local data change daily, if not hourly. As a result of COVID statistics, Indiana and 24 other states and territories have determined that it is appropriate to reopen elective procedures, including dentistry, within their borders. An additional seven states never issued a mandate limiting dentistry. This falls under the proper authority of a state, and Governor Eric Holcomb and his advisors were within their right to do so. For the other 22 states and territories that have not yet determined it appropriate to reopen, the stricter CDC recommendation still stands.
PPE: Do We Have to Provide an N95?
A recent misreading of the ADHA’s Interim Guidance on Returning to Work has resulted in significant confusion among both IDA and IDHA members. Many people have wrongfully interpreted the quote “In the event that neither an N95 nor a U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA-approved full face shield with a surgical mask is available, it is not safe for you to provide care” as requiring dental offices to operate either with N95 masks, or not at all. This is incorrect. While the sentence may be confusing, the takeaway is this: Either an N95 or face shield (with a surgical mask) is appropriate.
We also feel that the FDA approved N95 equivalent, the KN95, is appropriate, as outlined in the ADA guidelines. As previously stated, the decision and selection of appropriate PPE is an exercise of professional judgment. Where possible, try and aim for the highest form of protection and be sure to change your mask regularly if it becomes soiled, damaged, or difficult to breathe through.
For more information on mask types, click here.
For more information from the ADA’s Return to Work Guidance, click here.
As you transition back into practice, remember you are not alone: You are a valued member of the IDA, and we will all do our part to make the profession’s re-acclimation as smooth as possible. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. We value your membership and look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve you in the future. We will get through this together.
Dr. Steve Ellinwood