ADA fights for dentists' inclusion as essential workers during public health emergencies

The American Dental Association developed an interim policy asserting that dentistry is essential healthcare, and it will be considered as a resolution during the ADA's house of delegates meeting in October.

The interim policy, which argues oral health is essential to systemic health, stands in contradiction to the World Health Organization's Aug. 11 interim guidance recommending patients delay routine dental visits until the pandemic is more under control. The ADA released a statement Aug. 12 saying it "respectfully yet strongly disagrees" with the guidance.

The policy will call on state agencies and lawmakers to include oral health professionals when designating the essential workforce during public health emergencies. The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency have already recognized dentistry as an essential service.

"I'm proud of how individual dentists in their own communities have used our guidance to ensure dentistry can be provided safely and timely now and in any future pandemic," Tom Paumier, DDS, a member of the ADA's task force for dental practice recovery, told ADA News. "Never again should our patients be deprived of access to comprehensive and preventive oral health care, as delayed care has consequences beyond the mouth."

The ADA will continue to support state and local dental groups in supporting dentistry as essential healthcare by collaborating with them to create an advocacy toolkit. The organization also said it will assist member dentists who need personal protective equipment by urging the FEMA to prioritize dentists for these materials.

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