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Urgent Update: CDA revises recommendation - Urges California dentists to provide emergency treatment only

Advisory aligns with new statewide shelter-in-place order

March 20, 2020 97549

New information continues to surface daily about the health environment, shelter-in-place orders and how dentists should respond to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The specific health care delivery mandates and advisories are not clear or consistent at the federal, state and local levels. We understand the overwhelming confusion and frustration this is creating.

As the pandemic situation and information evolve, CDA is working to adapt its recommendations in the most timely and accurate manner possible. Our goals are to reflect the intent and purpose of guidance or directives from public health authorities to effectively “flatten the curve” and to navigate what that guidance means for dentists’ care delivery and practice issues.

In step with Gov. Newsom’s new statewide shelter-in-place order issued Thursday, March 19, ordering all individuals living in California to stay home or at their place of residence until further notice, we are revising CDA’s recommendation to:

The California Dental Association strongly recommends that dentists practicing in California suspend all in-person dental care with the exception of emergency treatment, until further notice.

Given the gravity of this health care crisis and national emergency, CDA implores dental practices to suspend all dental care with the exception of emergency cases that present as life threatening. The purpose of this recommendation, consistent with the statewide shelter-in-place order, is to minimize the risks of virus exposure to patients and the dental team and to preserve critical health care workers’ personal protective equipment (PPE), which are currently in extremely short supply. If this situation changes, we will adapt the recommendations accordingly.

We have received many questions about whether CDA could mandate these recommendations from individuals who were concerned about practices not complying with them. CDA is not a regulatory body and cannot issue mandates for dental practices. An order or mandate ― for which CDA is actively advocating ― may only be issued by the governor, state agencies or local agencies.

Although CDA cannot issue a mandate, we strongly advise you to act on the information we do know, which is:

  • COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease and transmits in an aerosol environment; therefore you should not be treating patients without proper PPE.
  • If you continue to see patients for treatment that is not emergency and life-threatening, you put yourself, your staff, your patient and your community at risk for potential major health issues, including death.
  • The typical practice does not stock the proper PPE to deal with this contagious disease, including N95 masks, and therefore a practice should not be treating any patients, including emergency patients, without the proper PPE. If you have a patient who presents with an emergency condition and needs immediate treatment and your practice does not have the proper PPE, the patient should be advised to seek treatment at another dental office with proper PPE equipped to handle the emergency, or at the hospital.
  • We know there is already a severe shortage of N95 masks and other PPE supplies for health care workers, so in absence of clarity or mandates from public health authorities restricting distribution and use for emergency health care, we strongly advise that dentists support the public health crisis and not use PPE for anything but life threatening emergency procedures until further notice.

We understand you will have more questions about this update and what it means for you and your practice. Your concerns are our concerns and CDA is here to support you through this unprecedented pandemic.

For the most up-to-date information and support, visit our dedicated information page at On Monday, March 23, you will find new FAQs that provide clearer definitions of what constitutes a dental emergency, and CDC, CDPH and OSHA guidelines for proper PPE usage during a health crisis such as a pandemic.

A new webinar is also available on the website at that will answer many questions you have, and an expert panel webinar is coming next week.

CDA Practice Support is available at 800.232.7645 to answer any questions you may have. Please know we are experiencing a significant increase in calls serving our members so response times may be longer than usual.

As health care professionals, we all have a role to play in slowing the spread of the new coronavirus and “flattening the curve” in order to follow sound scientific, public health advice, to help limit infections and slow the spread of the virus. Dentists can make a difference in helping to preserve the limited supply of PPE critical for emergency dental care and frontline health care personnel responding to the pandemic.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest information and alerts and share CDA’s COVID-19 (coronavirus) updates with your social networks to circulate this news with our dental community.

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