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A top official with the World Health Organization sought to clarify this week the agency's recent guidance advising that routine, nonessential oral health care be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article was originally published Aug. 12 but was updated Aug. 18 to include a statement from the WHO chief dental officer concerning media coverage of interim guidance.
In an Aug. 13 email to global leaders, WHO Chief Dental Officer Benoit Varenne, Ph.D., expressed his concerns about media coverage of the interim guidance.
"Unfortunately, a number of media headlines intentionally or not — when they are referring to the WHO guidance, did not mention that the recommendation to delay routine oral health care is only suggested in an intense uncontrolled community transmission scenario. A scenario that [does] not fit with the current situation of [most countries] around the world," Dr. Varenne said. "So please be aware of the missing information sometimes disseminated by the media that could increase fear and concern of patients seeking oral health care. I think we have all to play a part in sharing with the public, national dental associations and health authorities the full story provided in the guidance document."
The WHO provides guidance worldwide, and its recent document “Considerations for the provision of essential oral health services in the context of COVID-19” is not specific to California. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health and CDA Practice Support provide resources and tools to help dental teams practice safely during the pandemic.
CDA and ADA strongly disagreed with the guidance, emphasizing that dentistry is essential health care. The American Dental Association released the following statement regarding WHO’s recommendation:
The American Dental Association (ADA) respectfully yet strongly disagrees with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation to delay “routine” dental care in certain situations due to COVID-19.
“Oral health is integral to overall health. Dentistry is essential health care,” states ADA President Chad P. Gehani, D.D.S. “Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.”