Despite recent World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations to delay routine dental procedures, the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) has stressed the importance of maintaining periodontal health during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The AAP also announced that its members are committed to implementing rigorous safety measures in an effort to ensure the health and well-being of patients and reduce the risk of exposure during the pandemic.
“It is well-established science that periodontal disease and systemic disease are interconnected,” said Dr. Bryan Frantz, president of the AAP. “As a result, establishing and maintaining healthy teeth and gums is fundamental to overall health. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly affected most aspects of life, but with the right patient safety measures in place that align with state and local guidelines, it should not impact your ability to receive periodontal care.”
Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, can cause bleeding gums, bad breath and, if left untreated, lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease has been linked to several other serious conditions including diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
The WHO’s recent recommendations to delay non-essential dental care cite the risk of disease transmission as a result of the close proximity between dental professionals and patients and because of the aerosols produced by certain dental procedures. However, there is limited evidence to support the claim that dental offices pose an increased risk of spreading disease, including COVID-19.
Additionally, the AAP states that routine visits with a periodontist are crucial to maintaining the health of teeth and gums.
“Many patients under the care of a periodontist are undergoing a comprehensive treatment plan,” says Frantz. “Regular check-ups are an important part of this treatment, and any delay in care could lead to a worsening of their periodontal condition.”
According to Frantz, periodontists are uniquely experienced in infection control and other safety measures to protect themselves and their patients from disease exposure.
“As dental professionals who are predominantly involved with surgical procedures, periodontists have always been committed to ensuring that effective safety barriers are in place for patients. While the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, members of the AAP are adhering to COVID-19 mandates issued by state and local agencies and implementing additional measures to ensure the safety of both their patients and their staff.”
Additional measures include regular temperature checks for both staff and patients, social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment such as face shields, masks and gloves, and rigorous infection control and sanitation procedures.
For more information, visit perio.org.