Next COVID-19 challenge? Reopening America's dentist offices - CBS News
May 22, 2020 1 min, 37 secs

As dental offices reopen for routine care across the country — services like teeth cleanings are now allowed in 42 states — it's not exactly business as usual for dentists and dental hygienists who mostly shut down in March as the pandemic hit. .

While the rules of reopening vary state by state, dental offices providing more than emergency care were violating guidelines set by the U.S.

"There have been some concerns raised by many of our members, as to why are we not listening to the CDC and postponing this care?" asked Matt Crespin, president of the American Dental Hygienists' Association, or ADHA, which represents more than 185,000 dental hygienists. .

As with other small businesses, the coronavirus shutdown has hammered dental practices, with nearly 30% reporting they'd reopened to mostly lower patient volume as of early May, an American Dental Association poll of 12,00 dentists found.

Marcelo Araujo, chief science officer at the American Dental Association, which represents more than 163,000 dentists in the U.S., advises dental offices to remove magazines and other "unnecessary items" from waiting areas.

The association also supports dentists being able to perform COVID-19 tests on patients in the future, provided one is devised that is both reliable and practical to administer in a dental office.

His fears are not unfounded, according to a survey in April by the North American Dental Group, which runs 230 dental offices across the country.

That said, his current bout of dental trips to replace two crowns leaves Bonem more concerned for his dentist and hygienist.

COVID-19 is bringing about what's likely to be permanent change in how dental offices protect employees and patients, much as HIV and AIDS changed the way dentists and dental hygienists protected themselves three decades ago

"Prior to that, a lot of dental providers didn't even wear gloves," Crespin said

But the coronavirus will lower the count of patients and staff in dental settings at the same time, Crespin noted. 

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