The FGDP(UK) and newly formed College of General Dentistry have convened an expert task force to review the evidence base for dental practice during the COVID-19 outbreak and have today launched the official summary report of the guidelines ‘COVID-19: guidelines for safe care in general dental practice’.
The UK wide task force panel includes 30 senior members of a number of organisations, including the British Dental Association, the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the Association of Dental Groups, the Association of Dental Implantology and the newly-formed British Association of Private Dentistry and has received support and input from groups across the profession including the British Society of Dental Hygiene & Therapy and the British Association of Dental Nurses. It supports dental professionals to take a risk and evidence-based approach to providing care in the current circumstances and allows the flexibility of setting minimum requirements whatever the national COVID-19 threat level.
Ian Mills, Dean of FGDP(UK) comments “During the initial stages of the pandemic it was important that all but emergency dentistry procedures were paused. However, we are now at a point where the risk to the oral health of the population will be impacted unless practices are able to reopen, albeit with the correct protection for patients and the dental team.
This guidance has been developed as a framework to enable the confident return to practice, now and also into the future as the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve. It is the result of the collaborative effort of a team of dedicated individuals from across the profession who have spent the last few weeks committed to reviewing the evidence, assessing the risks and finding a way forward.”
In line with other FGDP(UK) Guidance and Standards publications, the guidance adopts the ABC (Aspirational, Basic, Conditional) approach to measures with ‘basic’ measures being a minimum standard.
The guidance is divided into five sections – four of which reflect the patient journey and the fifth concerns general management of the practice. These sections are assigned a risk status and ABC based risk mitigation measures to ensure safe practice and include:
- Pre-appointment – including the important role of digital communication to minimise contact time
- Patient attendance (pre-treatment) – including the communication of new infection control and prevention procedures to patients along with changes to waiting areas
- During treatment – including recommendations for approaches to aerosol generating exposures (AGEs) developed using a model based on risk continuum and recommendations for appropriate levels of PPE
- After treatment – including procedures to protect patients and staff and the use of an appropriate fallow period following high risk AGEs
- Management/governance tasks – including risk assessments for all staff members and awareness of the need to encourage staff to monitor and support if they feel unwell
Onkar Dhanoya, Chair of the Task Group, commented “These guidelines have been developed to address the specific needs of primary dental care. This includes the recognition that whilst safety of patients and team members is the priority, closure of practices is in itself harming patients, their oral health and psychological wellbeing. The use of the risk matrix tables within the guidance allows us to reflect the varied needs of practices and the fluid nature of the current situation.”
Roshni Karia, Junior Vice Dean, FGDP(UK) comments “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought uncertainty to a number of aspects of daily life. This guidance aims to help develop specific strategies for primary dental care with a realistic approach to what can be achieved in practice. It also provides guidance for supporting patients and staff who may be in greater risk categories. By working together as a team, we can all proceed with confidence and help to sustain trust in dentistry overall.”