ADA releases updated COVID-19 dental office procedures emphasising need for hazard assessments

The American Dental Association’s (ADA) new Update to Office Procedures During COVID-19 provides updated information for dentists to consider as they assess COVID-19 workplace hazards and make decisions that are best for their practices.

“As state regulation and guidance evolve, dental practices should evaluate potential risks and benefits to determine an approach that is in the best interests of their dental team and patient population,” said Duc “Duke” M. Ho, DDS, chair of the ADA Council on Dental Practice. “Every practice is different and unique. Risk assessments are an integral part of ensuring the health, safety and well-being of everyone within the workplace, not to mention they are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is critical for dental practices to conduct a hazard assessment that specifically takes local conditions, the practice’s physical structures, staff health considerations — like staff vaccination rates — and other factors into account.”

The Update to Office Procedures During COVID-19 is structured along the same topical areas as the ADA’s Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit. It explains what guidance has and has not changed from the toolkit and also includes a hazard assessment and hazard assessment checklist.

Key points from the update include:

• Hazard assessments are required by OSHA. Dental practices must have a safety plan for exposure control and COVID-19. They should repeat the hazard assessment regularly as COVID-19 conditions change

• Dentists should stay abreast of guidance from federal, state, local, tribal and territorial health agencies and consider how to incorporate those recommendations and resources into workplace-specific plans

• Best practices for assessing and managing the hazards in a workplace should take an integrative approach, incorporating evidence-based scientific data in conjunction with psychosocial, state and community factors

• Dentists will need to use their best professional judgment when making decisions

• Patient pre-appointment screenings are still necessary

• Staff, patients and nonemployees on-site must be screened prior to office entry, and those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should not be permitted to enter