June 3, 2020 

Ohio’s dental practices reopened for non-emergency services on May 1, 2020. The Ohio State Dental Board implemented several guidelines for dental practices to follow upon reopening, including a requirement to adhere strictly to infection control protocols and personal protection equipment (“PPE”) guidelines set forth by the American Dental Association’s Return to Work Toolkit and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). On May 19, 2020, the CDC updated its infection prevention and control guidelines with respect to dental practice settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The updated CDC guidelines included new recommendations for the use of PPE during aerosol-generating procedures.

The CDC continues to recommend that aerosol-generating procedures be avoided if possible. But, there are many situations in which aerosol-generating procedures must be performed. Prior to May 19, 2020, the CDC advised that aerosol-generating procedures should be performed only with the use of a n95 respirator mask. If a n95 respirator mask was not available, the CDC previously recommended that the aerosol-generating procedure not be performed. The CDC’s updated guidelines have revised this recommendation. The CDC still recommends that aerosol-generating procedures should be performed with the use of a n95 respirator mask, if available. But, if a n95 respirator mask is not available, the CDC now recommends that the aerosol-generating procedure should be performed with the use of a FDA-approved surgical mask and a full face shield. If a n95 respirator mask, or a FDA-approved surgical mask and full face shield are not available, the CDC advises that the aerosol-generating procedure should not be performed.

In addition to a n95 respirator mask or a FDA-approved surgical mask and full face shield, dental professionals should wear gloves, eye protection, and a gown or other protective clothing when performing an aerosol-generating procedure. Further, the CDC guidelines also call for the use of four-handed dentistry, high evacuation suction, and dental dams to minimize droplet spatter and aerosol release. The CDC also indicates that the number of dental professionals present during the aerosol-generating procedure should be limited to only those essential for patient care and procedure support.

The CDC continues to remind dental practices of the importance of ensuring that the dental practice has the appropriate amount of PPE and supplies to support its patient volume. If PPE and supplies are limited, the CDC advises dental practices to prioritize dental care for the highest need, most vulnerable patients first. To review the CDC’s updated guidelines, please visit the CDC’s website.

For more information on the new infection prevention and control guidelines set by the CDC for dental practices in response to COVID-19, or if you have questions regarding the application of these guidelines, please contact Kari Heinze.

Kari Heinze is an associate at Walter | Haverfield who focuses her practice on business services within the healthcare and dental practice arena. She can be reached at kheinze@walterhav.com or at 614-246-2266.