Governor Greg Abbott allowed Texas’ COVID-19 disaster declaration order to expire on June 15, 2023. This follows the end of the National COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration on May 11, 2023. Although the national public health emergency and state disaster declaration ended, that does not mean that COVID-19 has gone away. It is still recommended that dentists follow COVID-19 guidance
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s COVID-19 guidance for healthcare personnel was last updated in May 2023 and applies to all settings where healthcare is delivered, including dental practices.
As a reminder, the CDC does not have regulatory authority over the operation of dental practices. CDC guidance is a non-binding recommendation. However, the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) encourages dentists to follow the CDC’s COVID-19 recommendations for healthcare settings. Should a patient file a COVID-19-related complaint with the TSBDE against a dentist, the dental board will consider whether the dentist was following CDC recommendations.
Dentists and team members can use the CDC’s DentalCheck mobile app
to assess whether their dental practice is meeting the CDC’s minimum expectations for safe dental care.
Infection Control and Prevention Practices
- Continue to monitor national COVID-19 trends and your local COVID-19 transmission rates.
- Conduct COVID-19 hazard assessment.
- Implement infection prevention and control (IPC) practices and source controls. Have a written IPC that can be accessed if needed.
- Universal use of Personal Protective Equipment for dentists and dental team members.
- Well-fitting face masks and N95 Respirators. See CDC’s Types of Masks and Respirators (Updated May 2023).
- When performing aerosol-generating procedures on patients who are not suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, ensure that dental healthcare personnel (DHCP) correctly wear the recommended PPE (including consideration of a NIOSH Approved particulate respirator with N95 filters or higher as SARS-CoV-2 community transmission increases) and use mitigation methods such as four-handed dentistry, high evacuation suction, and dental dams to minimize droplet spatter and aerosols.
- Patient screening process for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
- Pre-appointment patient screenings to identify individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- Inform everyone entering the dental practice (ie, staff and patients) of the dentist’s IPC.
- Post Visual Alerts showing infection, prevention, and control practices to help prevent the spread of germs.
- Establish a process for managing staff and patients with exposure to COVID-19.
- A Positive viral test for SARS-CoV-2
- Symptoms of COVID-19, or
- Close contact with someone with SARS-CoV-2 infection (for patients and visitors) or a higher-risk exposure (for healthcare personnel (HCP).
- Develop and implement a plan for how COVID-19 exposures in the dental practice will be investigated and managed and how contact tracing will be performed.
- Refer to CDC’s Interim Guidance for Managing Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection or Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (September 2022).
Dental Practice Considerations (CDC’s COVID-19 Guidance for Healthcare Personnel; May 2023)
- Dental treatment should be provided in individual patient rooms whenever possible with the HVAC in constant ventilation mode.
- Dental facilities with open floor plans, strategies to prevent the spread of pathogens include:
- At least 6 feet of space between patient chairs.
- Adjunct use of portable HEPA air filtration systems to enhance air cleaning.
- Physical barriers between patient chairs. Easy-to-clean floor-to-ceiling barriers will enhance the effectiveness of portable HEPA air filtration systems (check to make sure that extending barriers to the ceiling will not interfere with fire sprinkler systems).
- Operatories oriented parallel to the direction of airflow when possible.
- Where feasible, consider patient orientation carefully, placing the patient’s head near the return air vents, away from pedestrian corridors, and toward the rear wall when using vestibule-type office layouts.
- Ensure to account for the time required to clean and disinfect operatories between patients when calculating your daily patient volume.