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Confusion about reopening due to lack of CDC guidance

May 14, 2020
Dr. Chris Salierno acknowledges that dentists are scratching their heads when it comes to reopening their practices. There's been a lack of firm national guidance on exactly what should be done in order to adhere to safety guidelines.

Currently only seven states are adhering to the latest CDC guidelines to defer all elective dental treatment and solely treat emergencies. What constitutes an emergency in the eyes of the CDC is left open to interpretation, so most dentists are referencing the ADA’s classification. With mounting pressure from patients with different levels of urgent oral health needs, and facing conflicting guidance from federal and state agencies, dental practices are left to make difficult decisions about reopening.

This has been the dilemma for the past few weeks as states have started to reopen. However, there are signs that the dental community may soon be receiving proper guidance from the CDC. On May 6, ADA president Dr. Chad Gehani and executive director Dr. Kathleen O’Loughlin wrote to CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield requesting new guidance on the reopening of dental practices. In a May 12 Marketwatch article, a CDC spokesperson is quoted as saying in response to the ADA letter, “We anticipate the updated guidance will be available soon.” That same day, Senator Susan Collins of Maine urged Dr. Redfield at a public hearing to consider the growing oral health crisis. Dr. Redfield responded that new CDC guidelines would be forthcoming.

Without agreement from federal and state authorities, especially the CDC, practices and providers are unable to adequately address concerns raised by employees and patients.

Chris Salierno, DDS, is the chief editor of Dental Economics and the editorial director of the Principles of Practice Management and Group Practice and DSO Digest e-newsletters. He is also a contributing author for DentistryIQ and  Perio-Implant Advisory. He lectures an writes about practice management and clinical dentistry. Additional content is available on his blog for dentists at thecureiousdentist.com. Dr. Salierno maintains a provate general practice in Melville, New York. You may contact him a [email protected].

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