As you know from our communications yesterday, U.S. Senator Susan Collins sought clarification from CDC Director on Re-Opening Dental Practices in Maine. She relayed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield the frustration she has heard from dentists across Maine who have been unable to reopen their practices despite following strict infection control protocols. Senator Collins also emphasized the health consequences of dental office closures.
"Dentists tell me that teeth with cavities that could have been filled are now going to need root canals. Teeth that could have been treated with root canals are now going to require extractions. People with oral cancers cannot get the treatment, the cleanings, that they need before beginning their treatment," said Senator Collins.
"[M]y question to you is this," Senator Collins told Dr. Redfield. "If dentists are following the American Dental Association
; if they're instituting strict protective measures for their patients, their staffs, their hygienists, and themselves; and if they're closely examining and seeing a decline in the number of COVID-19 infections in their county, are these reasonable factors for states to consider in reopening the practice of dentistry?"
Dr. Redfield agreed with Senator Collins that it is important to follow the American Dental Association's guidelines and said that the CDC is working on providing specific guidance for dental practices.
Following yesterday's hearing, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew
announced that unless Maine receives updated CDC guidance by May 18th, the state will defer to the recommendations of the American Dental Association and Maine Dental Association.
The MDA wishes to thank Senator Collins for her leadership and for focusing on the important issue of accessing timely and necessary oral health care for Mainers. We are very grateful for her support. We also wish to thank Commissioner Lambrew and her team for their dialogue with the MDA as we work toward the safe re-opening of dental settings.
The MDA also convened a Re-Opening Task Force comprised of dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, denturists, dental specialists to review national guidance including the ADA's Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit, the American Dental Hygienists' Association Interim Guidance on Returning to Work, the CDC Guidance for Providing Dental Care During COVID-19, OSHA's guidelines for Dentistry Workers and Employers and other sources.
Together this task force developed a comprehensive set of re-opening recommendations entitled,
"Establishing Safe Dental Care in the Era of COVID-19: A Unified Vision for Safely ReOpening Dental Practices in Maine." Members included:
- Mr. Patrick Allen, Denturist
- Dr. Norma Desjardins, General Dentist, Non-profit dental clinic
- Ms. Cara Dionne, Registered Dental Hygienist/ Dental Practice Manager
- Dr. Mike Dowling, Pediatric Dentist
- Dr. Heather Keeling, General Dentist, Chair of Task Force
- Dr. David Kerr, General Dentist
- Dr. Matthew Lawler, Oral Surgeon
- Dr. Christopher Murphy, Orthodontist
- Dr. Brad Rand, General Dentist
- Dr. Stephen Tangredi, Endodontist
- Cathy Turbyne, PhD, Registered Dental Hygienist/ Infection Control Specialist
- Ms. Amanda Willette, CDA, EFDA, M.S.Ed, Assistant Professor University of Maine at Augusta
As per Commissioner Lambrew's announcement, it appears that dental practices could start to practice non-emergency dentistry starting May 18th.
With that in mind, please remember the following:
- The Governor Mills' "Restarting Maine's Economy Plan" clearly focuses on the principles of protecting public health, maintaining health care readiness, building reliable and accessible testing and prioritizing public-private partnerships and in a staged approach.
- Under Openings Permitted specific to Health Care it says the following:
"Health care from Maine licensed providers, with a recommendation that they prioritize care for patients with time-sensitive conditions; assure the safety of patients, staff, and communities;
manage the use of essential resources such as personal protective equipment
and testing supplies; and pace reopening services to the level of community COVID-19 activity, maintaining capacity for our hospitals for potential outbreaks."
- PPE Update: With a generous donation from the MDA Charitable Foundation, we have placed an order for 25,000 KN95 masks. We anticipate their arrival in the next week or so. We have also secured a donation of 750 face shields. The MDA will set up drop off points in 4-5 areas for distribution. Keep checking your emails for more information.
- DO NOT REOPEN UNLESS YOU HAVE THE NECESSARY PPE. The safety of your patients, your staff and you is critical.
- We know some of you are very upset about the federal PPE stockpile. We have been told that as long as supplies are limited, dentists will not have any access to the emergency management supply. You need to plan accordingly. Visit the MDA PPE Vendor list here: https://www.medental.org/public-resources/coronavirus-resources
- Training is key. I have been encouraging you all to review the ADA Toolkit, hold staff meetings, addresses questions, be sure to train your staff on the appropriate donning and doffing of PPE.
- Set expectations- there is no return to work "like normal." The new policies and procedures will take additional time. Plan accordingly.
Thank you all for your advocacy efforts. It has been challenging at times, but I can't think of any other group of professionals I would rather work with.