Should Dentists Line Up for the COVID-19 Vaccination?
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health care system well beyond the front lines of coronavirus care. Dentistry is no exception. With vaccines being rolled out, the question of dentists’ COVID vaccines is being raised. Although dental professionals don’t necessarily work with the most at-risk patients, e.g., the elderly or immunosuppressed individuals, should they be lining up to get the jab?
Yes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has confirmed that dental professionals, teams, and students should get priority access to the vaccine.
What does this mean for you as a dentist?
The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Dental Practices
The COVID-19 pandemic left many patients worried about dental visits and putting off routine cleanings due to infection fears. A word of warning from the World Health Organization urging the public to postpone regular cleanings and non-essential care further fueled hesitation.
Following an investigation by the American Dental Association, it gradually became clear that dental settings were, in fact, relatively safe. The ADA’s survey revealed that less than one percent of dentists across the country tested positive for COVID-19.
Experts have theorized that this is likely due to the stringent disinfection and safety policies that dental clinics already have in place as part of their routine operations.
Nonetheless, many Americans have been putting off routine procedures like dental cleanings and checkups for the past year. This now presents a significant public health problem.
Oral healthcare appointments are a valuable opportunity for enhanced oral hygiene measures, such as removing tartar buildup responsible for periodontal disease. Dental checkups are also critical to identifying early-stage symptoms of cavities, gingivitis, and oral cancer.
As patients continue to put off primary oral healthcare, it’s becoming increasingly important to provide the added reassurance they need to book these valuable appointments. Getting dental teams vaccinated is one step in the right direction.
Dentists’ Role in the 2021 Vaccine Rollout
According to a December 2020 guidance issued by the CDC, early vaccine access is crucial for the approximately 21 million health care personnel at work in the U.S. This includes oral healthcare professionals.
Although the initial phrasing of the CDC’s guidance appeared to neglect dentist COVID vaccines, the American Dental Association called for clarification. The CDC subsequently confirmed that the organization’s definition of “healthcare personnel” included dental professionals, teams, and students.
Going forward, dentists may also have the opportunity to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to their patients, playing a valuable role in contributing to this massive public health campaign.
Some states, like California, are already putting training programs in place to permit their oral healthcare professionals to offer the vaccine. The Department of Consumer Affairs has approved an emergency waiver that will allow more than 36,000 California dentists to administer the jab.
Benefits of Dentist COVID Vaccines
Whether or not you end up actively vaccinating patients yourself is admittedly another topic altogether.
However, the benefits of getting a COVID vaccine for yourself and your dental team is undeniable.
Here are some of the advantages:
- Reduced infection risk within your team: Your team is the backbone of your dental practice. If they are ill or unable to work due to COVID contamination, your ability to serve patients suffers. The coronavirus vaccine substantially reduces the risk of infection for yourself and your employees.
- Minimize the risk of infecting patients: Vaccinated individuals are less likely to directly infect others (although they may still transmit pathogens that can infect others – more on that below). A healthy, fully vaccinated dental care team is thus also able to protect patients better.
- Provide peace of mind: Vaccinating dental care teams provides reassurance for employees and patients alike. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an emotional burden for many, and alleviating this stress can be a boon for business, ensuring people feel safe in your practice.
For details on vaccination opportunities for healthcare providers in your state, consult your local health department.
Additional Efforts Dentists Can Take to Stay Safe During COVID
The COVID-19 vaccine is a significant milestone in the pandemic battle. As a dentist, the benefits of getting yourself and your team vaccinated are undeniable. Not only for your and your team’s health but also for your patient’s and business’ well-being.
That said, vaccines do not fully protect against infection. Vaccinated people can still carry the pathogens responsible for COVID and transmit them to other people.
Thus, it’s critical to maintain high hygiene standards in your routine dental practice operations. Below are some of the most noteworthy basic best practices:
Use Proper Protection
Even with a dentist COVID vaccine, staff should continue to wear masks, plastic gloves, and eye shields. While vaccines are effective, they are not foolproof. This is a matter of reducing the risk of transmission between non-vaccinated patients. Patients should also wear masks when waiting to be seen.
Clean Surfaces Between Patients
Sanitize areas like the dental chair between patient appointments. Also, regularly wipe down high-touch surfaces throughout the dental clinic, such as light switches and bathroom door handles. Further, remove shared items from the waiting room, like magazines or kids’ toys.
Check That Patients Are Healthy
Before patients enter the dental practice, confirm that they feel healthy and are not displaying any COVID symptoms. Again, remember that even though you and your staff may be vaccinated, your patients are, for the most part, not. You want to minimize the influx of outside pathogens.
Restrict Non-Patient Access
Another step you can take to keep out external pathogens is to restrict non-patient access. Request patients come to their appointments alone. Exceptions are necessary for those who require a support person (for example, after getting an anesthetic).
Maintain Air Flow
Good air circulation can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission indoors. Weather permitting, open your dental practice’s windows to let fresh air in between patients. You can also consider upgrading your HVAC system with advanced air filtration.
Protect Your Practice
COVID introduces new risks to your dental business. Healthcare employers are already facing lawsuits from employees who claim they’ve been exposed to the virus on the job. Help safeguard your practice with sufficient professional and general liability coverage.
Trust Dentist’s Advantage to Help Safeguard Your Dentistry Practice
Dentist’s Advantage offers comprehensive insurance for dentists, including professional liability, business owners’ policies, and workers’ compensation plans. In the uncertain age of COVID-19, trust our insurance for added peace of mind.
Contact us for a quote.