Before treating any patient, Texas dentists must conduct comprehensive patient pre-screenings for COVID-19. Additionally, dentists and dental team members must conduct daily COVID-19 screenings on themselves to determine if they are healthy. However, despite these rigorous screening requirements, dental practices, like all reopened Texas businesses, could come into contact with patients who are COVID-19 positive and could have employees who are COVID-19 positive.
We understand that this can be a challenging time for you and want to make sure you know the necessary steps to take. In all communications, remember to protect the patient or team member’s confidentiality.
Here’s what you must do if you have a positive case in your practice:
Dentist – Dental Team Member Tests Positive
- Report to your local health department.
- Dentists and team members testing positive and having known close contact (6 ft) with patients while positive, must notify those patients. Document that the communication occurred. In your patient communications, protect the team member’s confidentiality under HIPAA and state privacy laws. A template notification letter from the CDC is available HERE for use or modification as you or your professional advisors deem appropriate.
Patient Tests Positive
- Report to your local health department if you suspect a patient has COVID-19. This helps prevent transmission to DHCP and other patients.
Cleaning and Disinfection
Clean and disinfect environmental surfaces in the dental facility according to the guidance outlined in the CDC’s Interim Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Dental Settings During the COVID-19 Response.
How you communicate with your patients about a possible COVID-19 exposure is very important. Remain focused and calm. A sample script for your communication with patients is below.
- Identify yourself and your dental practice.
- State potential exposure without disclosing any personal information—“We believe there is a potential that you may have come in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.”
- Express concern about the exposure.
- List protocols currently in place to help prevent virus transmission. Explain that adherence to strict infection control protocols make the risk of virus transmission extremely low.
- List internal post-exposure mitigation steps taken. Reinforce that the health of safety of your patients and your team is your top priority.
- Close with emphasis on transparency and open communication. Tell the patient you will keep them informed.
22 Texas Administrative Code §108.7 (16)(A)(v)
American Dental Association: What to Do if Someone on Your Staff Tests Positive for COVID-19
CDC: Clinician Phone Center
CDC: Interim U.S. Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Healthcare Personnel with Potential Exposure in a Healthcare Setting to Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
CDC: Contact Tracing