MDA response to COVID-19 and oral health services

15/08/2020

The Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) is deeply concerned over the recent document released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) entitled “Considerations for the provision of essential oral health services in the context of COVID-19” on the 3rd August 2020 and based on it, the subsequent press release in one of our local press entitled “Delay routine dental checkups, WHO urges, until COVID-19 risk is known” on the 11th August 2020. These statements may have caused undue anxiety to the general public and may be misinterpreted as if dental treatment is hazardous to health. 

The WHO has clearly stated in their document, “WHO advises that routine non-essential oral health care be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates from community transmission to cluster cases”.  It has also been clarified that the recommendation to delay routine oral health care is only suggested in an intense uncontrolled community transmission scenario. This is not at all the situation in Malaysia. Malaysia, due to the prompt and effective response mounted by our Ministry of Health personnel led by our able director-general of health together with the strict MCO protocols has successfully confined transmission to cluster cases and even these are closely tackled and rapidly brought under control. 

This means that Malaysian dentists can now proceed and carry on with routine dental treatment for the public with additional protocols like social distancing within the waiting room, improved ventilation and regular sanitization of surfaces like doorknobs, table surfaces and formites. Other protocols like the routine wearing of PPEs like medical face-masks, faceshields, gloves, surgical gowns and sterilization and disinfection of instruments and equipment has been a practice of dental clinics and dental professionals for years and have been taught all dental undergraduates since their clinical years. We cannot guarantee zero transmission but we can minimise it as much as we possibly can.  

On the issue of AGP(Aerosol Producing Procedures), these are being mitigated by PPEs, better ventilation, oral rinsing before treatment, high vacumn suction, introduction of disinfectants like hydrogen peroxide, povidone iodine, hypochlorous acid into the clean water systems of the dental chairs and equipment. This means that any aerosols produced already have embedded or infused disinfectant that will eliminate much of any infective bacteria and viruses present.  

Dental treatment is an essential service for the nation and essential to general health. Hence, at the height of the pandemic in Malaysia, only emergency service was provided to the general public. As we moved away from the height of the pandemic, dental service has already gradually resumed it’s full service cautiously. The Association wish to also advise the general public to call up their Dental practitioners for discussion and clarification on any matters that they may be uncertain of.  

Nevertheless, we should not let our guard down and everyone, including the general public, have a role to play in this continuous battle to ensure containment of this virus. There is a need to monitor continuously local progress on COVID-19 situation and this information relayed to the general public. We must understand that technically we are still under Movement Control Order and the need to adhere to SOPs issued by National Security Council. Hence, things such as advance bookings, temperature check, health screenings and being greeted by the receptionist donned in PPEs are now the new normal for all to follow to ensure continuity of safe Dental treatment to the public. The Malaysian Dental Association has been on high alert of this pandemic even before it was declared a pandemic and has routinely issued updated advisories to Dental Practitioners and will continue to do our best for the public.  

From the President and Council of the Malaysian Dental Association  

The MDA prime directive is to promote the art and science of dentistry for the benefit of the public. It is a not-for-profit organisation representing most of the dentists in Malaysia from the public and private sector, the universities and the armed forces.  

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