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May 09, 2020

Pennsylvania lifts restrictions on some dental procedures during coronavirus lockdown

Some non-emergency dental surgeries may now resume across the state, under new protocol

Pennsylvania will now allow more dental procedures to resume, modifying a ban on non-emergency dental procedures issued March 19, the Pennsylvania State Health Department announced Friday.

Gov. Tom Wolf and the Secretary of Health issued a guidance detailing what dental procedures will again be permitted. The guidance also issued protocols for such procedures in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Although the overall ban is now lifted, officials emphasized that this is not a return to routine dental care. The only procedures permitted to take place will be ones deemed absolutely necessary to a patients' health. Non-emergency dental procedures should take place only if clinician determines that "lack of treatment will result in irreversible damage" to a patient, the release said.

For example, a necessary root canal procedure performed to get a patient out of extreme pain would be deemed "necessary," and a routine dental cleaning would not.

Additionally, dentists should also consider the number of cases of coronavirus in their region, the needs of patients and staff, and what supplies are available. 

The release added that during any dental procedure, there could still be a risk of coronavirus transmission even with sufficient PPE.

"There is still no data available to assess the risk of COVID-19 transmission during dental procedures," the guidance read. "However, there is a better understanding of which procedures have increased risk of transmission and how to utilize PPE to reduce the risk."

Since the guidance's release, dentists have come forward to say that strictness of the order announced with this new guidance essentially prohibits any new activity from taking place. This is mostly due to the new guidance's ban on use of "aerosols," which are used in most procedures.

The release wrote that procedures which "produce a visible spray containing large droplets of water" should not take place, as they increase the risk of transmission. However, use of an aerosol in dental surgery would produce that effect.

On Wednesday, May 13, a clarification meeting regarding the May 8 order was held between the Pennsylvania Department of Health and state dental groups, including the Pennsylvania Dental Hygienists Association. The meeting discussed confusion regarding the order, and retaliation against dental offices that return to routine dental care 

The Wednesday meeting also held that the May 8 order is in place for all Pennsylvania counties, no matter what phase of reopening they are in.

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