Australian dentistry has moved to Level 1 restrictions following a decision by the National Cabinet on May 8.
The "new normal" isn't exactly "business as usual" pre-coronavirus, but it's pretty close, according to Australian Dental Association president Dr Carmelo Bonanno.
Under Level 1 restrictions, all dental services can be provided using standard precautions for people who do not meet epidemiological and clinical risk factors for COVID-19 infection transmission.
The Australian Dental Association Infection Control Committee, which has been at the forefront in shaping policy for the National Cabinet during the crisis, has developed a "decision tree" that underpins the Level 1 restrictions.
First, a patient is triaged by phone.
If they are "low risk", meaning no epidemiological and/or low risk factors, they can be treated under standard precautions, which include:
- The use of pre-procedural mouth rinses and alcohol-based hand rubs
- Social distancing in waiting rooms
- Limiting high touch items not easily cleaned, like toys and magazines etc,
If a patient has tested positive for Covid-19, or is a high or moderate risk, the advice remains to defer all non-urgent procedures.
If an urgent procedure is required, the ADA has outlined a set of guidelines to be followed, meaning treatment will be still available.
"Level 1 means that dental professionals must continue to screen patients and only treat those who do not meet the epidemiological and clinical risk factors for COVID-19," Dr Bonanno said.
"It is critical that the profession remains vigilant in its application of Level 1 restrictions and ensure the safety of dental teams and patients alike.
"Dentists are on the frontline when it comes to infection control and as a profession we still have a responsibility to eliminate community transmission."
The move to Level 1 restrictions is welcomed by the profession and community at large.
"Dental practice is a small business like any other and at the height of restrictions, people were being stood down, jobs were being lost and this was impacting on families and suppliers," Dr Bonanno said. "The easing means people are back in business.
"The 'new normal' which involves screening patients, use of pre-procedural mouth rinses and the observation of social distancing is hardly onerous and certainly in line with the trend across all other areas of Australian life at the present time."
While Level 1 restrictions have taken effect, individual states and territories may still have or choose to apply restrictions higher than the Level 1 minimum to address local conditions or future outbreaks.
Factors that will affect risk assessment include:
- State and local transmission status, which is changing daily
- The epidemiology of the patient
- Health status, age and co-morbidities (in consultation with medical practitioners as required)
- Availability of appropriate PPE, and
- Surgery/practice design
People can find their nearest dentist at the Find a Dentist service on the Australian Dental Association website at: www.ada.org.au/Find-a-Dentist/
The Australian Dental Association is a not-for-profit professional membership organisation. Its members include the great majority of practicing dentists, students of dentistry and a committed cohort of retired dentists.