CDA has consistently advocated that oral health care is essential care. Protecting all individuals’ access to dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.
Last December, access to care for individuals in Oakland, California, was protected as a result of coordinated education and outreach to local government by the Alameda County Dental Society and several community clinics.
The Oakland City Council on Dec. 21 passed an emergency ordinance that requires individuals ages 12 and older to show proof of vaccination before they can enter certain indoor places such as restaurants, bars, coffee houses, gyms, yoga studios and entertainment venues like museums and theaters.
Dental offices were included in the initial proposal, as were public libraries.
But the Alameda County Dental Society and three local community clinics ― Asian Health Services, La Clinica de La Raza and Native American Health Center ― organized a coordinated effort to educate the city council on the importance of keeping dental care accessible and the ethical obligation dentists have to care for their patients regardless of vaccination status.
ACDS, local dentists and clinic leaders sent emails and made phone calls to their city councilmembers urging them to protect access to care by removing dental offices from the mandate to ensure all individuals can continue to receive essential oral health care, just as they can receive other health care. They also emphasized that dental offices follow strict infection-control protocol for everyone’s safety.
Councilmember Nikki Bas proposed an amendment that removed dental offices and public libraries, and that amendment passed.
“Thank you to @nikki4oakland for advocating for the safety of the community while also ensuring all are able to access important oral health care during the pandemic,” CDA stated in a Dec. 23 Twitter post.
Local proposals on social distancing, masking and vaccine requirements, such as the Oakland proposal that passed, have materialized during the pandemic. CDA expects these proposals to continue to emerge across California as infections surge from the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
CDA will continue working with component dental societies to ensure that local policymakers understand the effects of these orders on access to dental care.
Dental offices are required to comply with COVID-19 infection control protocols that have been implemented since spring 2020, and those protocols have worked especially well, as evidenced by the absence of any COVID-19 outbreaks linked to dental offices in California. Furthermore, dental visits provide a valuable opportunity for dentists to counsel patients about receiving and staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations.
CDA provides COVID-19 exposure resources and a Vaccine Confidence Toolkit for dentists and their teams.