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Dentistry in the Age of Coronavirus

As we learn more about the transmission vector for coronavirus, many medical professionals are concluding that the virus is likely spread through respiratory secretions, such as coughing and sneezing. Understandably, many practicing dentists and oral hygienists are concerned for their health, and are considering measures to protect themselves and their staff. But can dentists refuse patients exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19?


Although the current health crisis raises new concerns, the American Dental Association has referred members concerned with Covid-19 to the Code of Ethics for guidance. Section 4 of the Code of Ethics requires dentists to treat patients fairly. The ADA has taken the position that if a member feels that a patient’s compromised medical condition, which may include symptoms of Covid-19, requires the knowledge, equipment or expertise of another professional, that the member should make a referral, and communicate their concerns truthfully with the patient.

New York State has asked all dental offices to comply with the Governor’s recent Executive Order which states that only emergency dental procedures are considered essential and should continue as scheduled or as needed. However, when the current restrictions are lifted, there will still be concerns related to workplace exposure to Covid-19. If a dentist or oral hygienist does not feel that they have the equipment or training necessary to treat a patient who is exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19, they should consider making a referral to an office which does have the training and equipment necessary to treat that patient, and communicate truthfully with the patient regarding their concerns. Due to the current shortage of Covid-19 appropriate PPE, dentists and oral hygienists should be prepared to make these referrals if they do not have the appropriate personal safety equipment.


For additional guidance from the American Dental Association, providers should follow the ADA’s Coronavirus Resource Page which includes additional emergency practice resources.


If you have any questions regarding this legal briefing, or have additional questions concerning legal compliance for dentistry practice, please contact our health care team at (585) 730-4773.

This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2020 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC

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