The MDS continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and will keep members informed of any new developments and recommendations. Please be sure to read all the communications we send you and continue to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Dental Association, and Massachusetts Department of Public Health websites for the most current information and updated guidelines.
The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) has been sharing COVID-19 information through email and website updates with all dentists in Massachusetts to keep you informed about the constantly changing environment. This content is usually exclusive to MDS members, but during these unprecedented times it is important to keep all dental professionals aware of updates. Learn more about The Value of Membership or Become A Member.
COVID-19 Variants and Best Practices
The American Dental Association (ADA) released a fact sheet on August 6, 2021, containing information about the Delta variant of COVID-19 and why vaccination and masks continue to be recommended by the ADA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
MDS Board of Trustees COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendation
8.24.21At its August 20 meeting, the Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) Board of Trustees voted to adopt the American Dental Association (ADA) recommendation that strongly encourages dentists and their team members to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. The ADA, which notified members of this recommendation in a July 28 email, is not currently calling for mandated vaccinations. In the July 28 notification, ADA President Dr. Daniel J. Klemmedson stressed that the ADA policy urges vaccination in agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, but that the CDC isn’t calling for mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for health care professionals at this time.
How New Mask Guidelines Affect Dental Practices
With the alarming increase in COVID-19 case counts and the highly transmissible Delta variant that is causing infections in vaccinated people, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidance last week urging fully vaccinated Americans to once again wear face masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. On Friday, July 30, 2021, Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a new mask advisory for Massachusetts residents. Per the DPH, if you are fully vaccinated, you are advised to wear a mask or face covering when indoors (and not in your own home) if:
- You have a weakened immune system
- You are at increased risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying medical condition
- Someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is an unvaccinated adult.
In light of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker's COVID-19 Order No. 67 pertaining to COVID-19 mask requirements, the Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) would like to provide members an update for how these guidelines may impact dental practice in the Commonwealth.Effective May 29, 2021, the Commonwealth’s face-covering order will be rescinded. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) will issue a new face-covering advisory consistent with the CDC's updated guidance. Face coverings will still be mandatory for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals at all times in health care facilities and provider offices, defined as health care facilities or providers licensed or operated by the Commonwealth including nursing homes, rest homes, emergency medical services, hospitals, doctors' offices, urgent care settings, community health centers, vaccination sites, behavioral health clinics, and Bureau of Substance and Addiction Services facilities. This requirement applies to patients and staff.
Aside from the updated mask guidance, dental practices are encouraged to use their best professional judgment to maintain an up-to-date mitigation strategy to protect the safety and well-being of their workforce and practice. Mitigation strategies may include:
- Routine health screenings such as COVID-19-related questions and temperature checks. Clinicians may choose to include questions related to COVID-19 symptoms, exposure, recent diagnostics, and vaccinations. If dental personnel, patients, or any members of the public have any questions regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, please refer them to the following resources:
- Air filtration systems
- Secondary barriers, such as plexiglass partitions
- Controlled dental practice workflow, such as single-use entrances and exits, restricted waiting room use, and limitations on visitors
It is important to remember that patients are likely to continue to expect heightened safety protocols throughout their dental experience.
Members are encouraged to review CDC guidance to safeguard the well-being of all dental personnel and maintain the health and safety of the public.
As a reminder, per DPH Phase 4 reopening guidance, health care providers must continue to:
1. Restrict the number of health care workers in the treatment space to those individuals necessary to complete the service or procedure for the patient.
2. Have a written protocol in place for screening all employees for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to entering the facility or office.
3. Adopt policies that address health care workers' safety and well-being.
4. Ensure providers and staff can socially distance to the maximum extent possible.
The MDS will continue to advise members as new information becomes available.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
As of late August 2021, more than 4.5 millions individuals in Massachusetts have been fully vaccinated, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Any individual ages 12-plus who lives, works, or studies in Massachusetts can receive a COVID-19 vaccination by contacting their primary care physician or through a local pharmacy (e.g., CVS, Walgreens, etc.), or through the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Finder webpage.
For all questions regarding safety, efficacy, and other expectations for your vaccination, we encourage you to visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine webpage.
MDS Board of Trustees Flu Vaccine Recommendation
The combination of the seasonal flu and the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to overwhelm the health care system. If this happens, the United States could see key supplies diverted to hospitals, reintroduced prohibition on non-emergency dental care, and another complete shutdown of the Massachusetts economy.
“A seasonal influenza outbreak could have devastating effects on our already taxed health care system and the state economy,” says MDS President Dr. MaryJane Hanlon. “As a profession, it is imperative that we do all we can to ensure Massachusetts does not roll back to Phases 1 or 2, which could force dental practices to revert to providing only emergency care.
“We urge the dental community to do its part in trying to minimize the dual impact of flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic on our patients, our communities, and the health care system," she continues. "As essential health care workers, dental professionals should protect themselves and their patients by getting a flu shot.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that “all U.S. health care workers get vaccinated annually against influenza” and an annual flu vaccination be administered to “everyone 6 months of age and older, with rare exceptions, because it is an effective way to decrease flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.”
Return to Practice Questions and Answers
Interim Dental Practice Guidance
Updated Interim Guidance
On December 4, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Interim Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Dental Settings During the COVID-19 Response to provide recommendations for dental practices during the pandemic. The CDC has added new information regarding facility and equipment considerations, sterilization and disinfection, and considerations for the use of test-based strategies to inform patient care. It also offers expanded recommendations for the provision of dental care to both patients with COVID-19 and patients without COVID-19.
Since the onset of COVID-19, dentists have begun utilizing teledentistry when appropriate. The MDS has created the following resources to help dentists:
ADA COVID-19 Coding and Billing Interim Guidance
The ADA released a guide intended to help dental offices navigate issues related to coding and billing for virtual check-ins and teledentistry appointments.
Dental practitioners are facing many unknowns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including potential risk management issues. Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) Member Savings Program Partner Eastern Dentists Insurance Company (EDIC), the malpractice insurance provider founded by the MDS and member dentists, has shared answers to some risk management questions posed by its dentist clients.
Information on COVID-19 is changing on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. The MDS has made every attempt to ensure that information is up-to-date, but with rapid changes occurring some information may have changed since publication. The date of publication is noted at the top of the page. Please visit www.coronavirus.gov or www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-updates-and-information for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19.