Letter: Dental hygienists prefer to follow CDC guidelines
In response to the story " North Dakota dentists get OK to resume routine dental care on May 1 " published on April 28, I would like to clarify what was stated about the North Dakota Dental Hygiene Association. Dental hygienists in North Dakota are concerned about the oral and overall health of our patients and understand that preventative care is needed for overall health. However, we have concerns about providing preventative services to patients in a safe manner during this pandemic.
The NDDHA follows the recommendations of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, just as the North Dakota Dental Association follows the recommendations of the American Dental Association. It should be clear that these associations are member-driven. While the associations are very powerful in supporting and advocating for our profession, promoting oral health of the public, and promoting access to care; they are associations to which professionals choose whether or not they belong. Therefore, they do not represent the beliefs of all practicing dentists and dental hygienists.
The North Dakota Dental Hygienists’ Association continues to support the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated April 21, in recommending dental facilities postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent dental visits, and prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures now and for the coming several weeks. The CDC goes on to say “services should be limited to emergency visits only during this period of the pandemic. These actions help staff and patients stay safe, preserve personal protective equipment and patient care supplies, and expand available health system capacity.” As dental hygienists, our scope of practice requires us to perform aerosol producing services, which is a mode of transmission for COVID-19. Therefore, it is the professional responsibility and an ethical decision for all hygienists to be concerned about the work they do, the patients they serve, and their personal safety.
Dental disease is a concern and can lead to, and complicate, other health issues. Hygienists are team members and want to be able to treat our patients in a safe and efficient manner, the same as the rest of our dental team members.
I would like to make everyone aware that the NDDHA and the NDDA are working together, collaboratively, to help ensure that all dental provider and staff concerns are being heard. This is a time of uncertainty for all of us; but, this is also a great opportunity for everyone to work together and address these concerns in order to better serve our patients.
Mallory is president of the North Dakota Dental Hygiene Association.