Prevention of Suspected Respiratory Disease Transmission in the Dental Healthcare Setting

Patients with an acute respiratory illness may present for dental treatment at outpatient dental settings. The primary infection control goal is to prevent transmission of disease. CDC recommends a multi-step approach that begins before the patient arrives at the practice and includes guidance regarding their arrival and for the complete duration of the affected patient’s presence in the practice.

It may not be possible to know the cause of any patient’s illness so it is important to follow this guidance and standard precautions at all times.

 

Infection control issues during patient assessment:

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  • Patients with an acute respiratory illness should be identified at check-in and placed in a single-patient room with the door kept closed.
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  • Offer a disposable surgical mask to persons who are coughing; and provide tissues and no-touch receptacles for used tissue disposal.
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  • Ill persons should wear a surgical mask when outside the patient room.
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  • Dental healthcare personnel assessing a patient with influenza-like or other respiratory illness should wear disposable surgical facemask*, non-sterile gloves, gown, and eye protection (e.g., goggles) to prevent exposure. Since recommendations may change as additional information becomes available it’s a good idea to check the CDC website for COVID-19 updates.
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  • Patient and dental healthcare workers should perform hand hygiene (e.g., hand washing with non-antimicrobial soap and water, alcohol-based hand rub, or antiseptic handwash) after possible contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials.
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*Until additional specific information is available regarding the behavior of COVID-19, the guidance provided in the “Interim Guidance for the Use of Masks to Control Seasonal Influenza Virus Transmission” is recommended at this time. Also recommended is a review of Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Healthcare Settings.

 

Summary

Respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette infection control measures along with contact precautions are currently recommended for preventing transmission of COVID-19 and all flu-like illnesses in a dental healthcare setting. CDC continues to monitor activity relating to COVID-19 and is coordinating efforts with health departments in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin and communicating with the World Health Organization. This is an evolving situation and CDC is updating its guidance and information as it becomes available.