COVID-19 means dental practitioners must be vigilant

09 Jul 2020

Dental practitioners have an important role in helping to contain the spread of COVID-19 and like everyone, must remain alert, as shown by this week’s outbreak in Victoria.

The Dental Board of Australia (the Board) recognises the strain all dental practitioners have been under in recent months and which is ongoing for some practitioners in these unprecedented times.

Dental Practitioner Support service - a phone call or click away

Dental practitioners are a critical part of the health workforce, looking after the oral health of their patients while remaining vigilant about containing any possible spread of COVID-19. Many may be feeling anxious and concerned for themselves, their patients and their families.

Are you a dental practitioner or student who needs help with your health and wellbeing anywhere or anytime? Your health matters.

Contact Dental Practitioner Support service on 1800 377 700 or dpsupport.org.au.

  • national service
  • free and 24/7
  • independent, anonymous and confidential service
  • staffed by trained and experienced counsellors

Your contact will not be shared with the Dental Board of Australia.

Restrictions to dental practice

From time to time, as the pandemic evolves, some practitioners may be subject to further restrictions, put in place by state or territory governments. Remembering that while the emergency response to COVID-19 is a national issue, public health legislation is primarily a power of the states and territories. State and territory government decisions and the powers they exercise are available under the state and territory public health Acts. These Acts allow for restrictions to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The current circumstances in Victoria show how rapidly conditions can change. All practitioners should ensure they stay up to date with their respective state and territory jurisdictional health directions and the latest Australian Government guidance.

Never before has adhering to infection control measures been more important than it is now; and all dental practitioners must exercise their professional judgement when caring for their patients.

Some dental practitioners may volunteer or be redeployed at the request of health authorities to help with the local COVID-19 response. As long as the dental practitioner has the required skills, competency and experience, there is no regulatory barrier to them providing assistance; e.g. supporting testing efforts by performing throat or nasal swabs.

Risk-based practice in COVID-19 pandemic

Underpinning the Board’s Code of conduct is the assumption that practitioners will exercise their professional judgement to assess and manage risk to deliver the best possible outcome for their patients. All dental practitioners across Australia will be taking a risk-based approach to their clinical practice, considering local conditions to determine how to practice safely in their environment.

Practitioners have a duty to make the care of patients or clients their first concern and to practise safely and effectively.

From time to time, the risk of transmission may increase due to a outbreak or hot spot of COVID-19. Dental practitioners may decide, according to circumstances, to exercise greater risk control measures in their practice above government restrictions to minimise the risk of transmission of infection.

While healthcare settings are an essential service, all dental practitioners should consider the current risk environment and public safety when making decisions about whether to defer non-urgent or elective dental services.

Good practice involves understanding and applying the key principles of risk minimisation and management to practice. This could include screening all patients to assess the risk of transmission in their practice context and apply infection prevention and control precautions that address the level of risk of transmission to help contain any possible new outbreaks of COVID-19. Risk management combined with professional judgement can be used by practitioners to help them decide whether to carry out treatment using aerosol-generating procedures.

Resources to help you manage COVID-19

All dental practitioners must continue to adhere to the Dental Board of Australia’s Guidelines for infection control available on the Board’s website.

Dental practitioners providing care must also comply with the Australian guidelines for the prevention and control of infection in health care (2019) published by the National Health and Medical

Research Council, especially with regard to:

  • risk management in infection prevention and control
  • standard precautions
  • transmission-based precautions, and
  • personal protective equipment.

COVID-19 resources developed by the Australian Dental Association are also publicly available.

If you have any further concerns or questions about any of this information, please contact us on COVID19@ahpra.gov.au.

* Dental Practitioner Support is the first national 24/7 telephone and online wellbeing support service for dental practitioners. Anyone calling the service does not have to give their name and can seek confidential support anonymously from an experienced team.

 
 
Page reviewed 9/07/2020