Centre advises dentists to take HCQ, allows them to resume services with major restrictions
The guidelines also issued a list of protocols which need to be followed in clinics and dental hospitals. Some professionals however raised questions on the practicality of several of the guidelines.
NEW DELHI: Despite growing doubts over the efficacy of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19, the Centre has advised dentists across the country to start taking the medicine in order to avoid infection. Restricted dental services have now been allowed in all areas of the country except containment zones.
The guidelines issued by the Union ministry of health and family welfare on Tuesday said dental clinics in orange and green zones will be able to provide consultations but added that only emergency and urgent surgeries and procedures can be carried out after taking specified precautions.
In case of containment areas, only emergency dental procedures can be performed.
The government, noting that dental services involve a high risk of cross-infection between patients and doctors, said that due to the high risk associated with the examination of the oral cavity, oral cancer screening under National Cancer Screening program should be deferred until new policies or guidelines are issued.
The guidelines, while assessing the risk factor associated with all dental procedures, also issued a list of protocols which need to be followed in clinics and dental hospitals irrespective of the zones and said this will require modification of set-ups in order to function.
The ministry asked dental clinics to ensure ventilation and air circulation with natural air using exhaust blowers, avoid ceiling fans and said every patient should be contacted telephonically within 24 hours and in a week’s time to check if they have developed any symptoms that should warn the dental staff to undertake appropriate actions.
The patients will also be advised to inform the dental clinics should there be any adverse symptoms.
The guidelines further advised the use of an indoor portable air-cleaning system with HEPA filter and UV light and asked dentists and other staffers to use PPE during patient examinations that should be donned and doffed in an earmarked area.
It also has encouraged telephonic screening as the first contact to get all necessary medical history and if the patients show symptoms of COVID-19, the dental care appointment should be postponed for three weeks except for dental emergencies.
Some professionals in the sector however raised questions on the “practicality” of several of the guidelines.
“I wonder if dental clinics with just 250-300 sq feet area in cities can suddenly manage to have separate sterilisation and PPE changing rooms,"said dentist Dr Divyesh B Mundra. "Also, since the majority of big cities are in red zones, where only emergency dental services can resume, it will hardly make a difference."
The guidelines meanwhile warned that dental care settings invariably carry the risk of COVID-19 infection due to the specificity of its procedures, which involve face-to-face communication with patients, frequent exposure to saliva, blood and other body fluids and the handling of sharp instruments.