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Patient Questions and Answers

These questions have been compiled by the Massachusetts Dental Society to offer general guidance to members. You should continue to rely on your best professional judgment and always consult with your legal or financial advisors for guidance regarding your particular situation. We will continue to update this section as more information becomes available or as information changes. 

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NEW: Setting the Record Straight on Seeing the Dentist During COVID-19

The MDS Responds to WHO Interim Guidance on Dental Care


The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued updated guidance that advised “delaying non-essential oral health care in areas with community spread” of COVID-19. 

The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) wants to clarify that this WHO guidance is NOT applicable to Massachusetts. Residents in cities and towns across Massachusetts, in line with recommendations from state and local officials, remain able to safely receive routine, emergency, or likely to become emergent oral health services. The American Dental Association (ADA) also responded to the WHO guidance.  

Dentists are experts in infection control and Massachusetts dentists are following the latest guidance from national and state public health entities like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in order to keep patients, dental staff, dentists, and communities safe. Increased infection control protocols and supplies and monitoring public health data are examples of the "new normal” in dentistry and a new standard of care for as long as COVID-19 continues to threaten the health of our communities. Until the data tells us otherwise, patients should feel safe in visiting their dentist for both routine dental appointments and emergency care because oral health is essential to overall health. 

As we know, in order to protect patients, dental team members, and the public, everything about a typical visit to the dentist is now dramatically different than it was prior to COVID-19. Dental practices have made upgrades to their offices—including reconfigured physical spaces and patient intake procedures, and increased use of higher-grade and more layers of personal protective equipment (PPE) for dentists and dental staff—in order to minimize opportunities for potential exposure and changes in tools and techniques to minimize the production of aerosols.  

Dentists are well-trained and innovative experts in infection control; patients who have not yet had a dental visit during the pandemic will see a significant increase in infection control protocols and supplies when they go back to the dentist. The MDS continues to work with the Commonwealth’s Reopening Advisory Board on a data-driven and safety-first strategy for the practice of dentistry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How should I decide which patient?

When should I reach out to patients to schedule appointments?

What messaging should I be sharing with my patients around safety, etc.?

Should I ask my patients to wear face masks while in the waiting room?

How do I prescreen my patients before treating them?

Should I change my waiting room process?

How do I institute social distancing in my office?

Are there new liability issues involved with treating patients in terms of them possibly getting COVID-19 while being in our offices?

Is there a Tripartite marketing effort toward reassuring patients that visiting the dentist is safe once restrictions are lifted and protocols are established? Are there any anticipated rollouts or suggestions for such messaging on a local level?

I need help determining which patients to schedule when we reopen. Can the MDS offer assistance?

Can I be sued by patients or employees if they get COVID-19 from my office?

Do I need to have my patients sign a COVID-19 waiver?