04 August 2020

COVID-19 update to dental restrictions in Melbourne and regional Victoria

The past few weeks have been particularly tough for all Victorians as we continue to battle the impact of COVID-19.

Despite a range of measures introduced by the Victorian government, the number of daily new cases has not significantly decreased. For this reason the Victorian Government has instituted a State of Disaster and moved to Stage 4 restrictions for Melbourne and Stage 3 restrictions for the rest of Victoria.

There are two fundamental guiding principles for dentists practising during this public health emergency:

1. Minimising the risk to themselves, their staff and their patients. We have a crucial role to play in helping to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

2. Ensuring that we continue to be able to provide necessary and essential health care to the community.

The ADAVB is providing leadership in these uncertain times and proactively working to help members navigate through this crisis. We met with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Dental Health Services Victoria today to update on the current situation in Victoria, following an update from the Chief Health Officer yesterday.

Under the new restrictions that will now operate across Victoria, dental services will continue to operate, and people will be allowed to visit the dentist for necessary dental care, including if their dentist is more than 5km away. It is important that patients do not put off or delay going to the dentist if they are experiencing dental problems. As per the advice from the Dental Board of Australia today, ADAVB is providing the following information to help you undertake a risk assessment for your practice.

Metropolitan Melbourne - Level 3 dental restrictions from Friday 7 August 2020

The recommendation for all dental practices in metropolitan Melbourne is that only urgent or immediate dental care that cannot be managed by telehealth should be performed, as long as it can be provided in a clinically safe manner. This means that dentists should now operate at Level 3 dental restrictions, recognising that we are practising in an environment where there is increased unknown community transmission of COVID-19.

ADAVB has been working closely with the ADA Infection Control Committee to review and revise the dental restrictions documents taking into account new evidence that is constantly emerging to ensure that our current recommendations take the two above-mentioned principles into account. Changes to Level 3 restrictions include the provision of  restorative treatment of extensive carious lesions under dental dam, dental/oral health conditions at higher risk of negative outcomes if no access to timely intervention and dental examinations without the use of a triplex syringe. The Level 3 dental restriction document will be updated soon on the ADA website: ada.org.au/covid19.

Regional Victoria - Level 2 dental restrictions from Friday 7 August 2020

The number of active cases in regional Victoria remains substantially lower than in Melbourne, however it has been increasing over the past few weeks. The recommendation for all of regional Victoria (including the Shire of Mitchell) is that clinically necessary routine dental care can be provided, as long as it can be provided in a clinically safe manner. This means that dentists should operate at Level 2 dental restrictions if there are active cases in the region. If there are no active cases then dentists can continue to operate at Level 1. It is therefore important for members to continue to monitor the number of cases in their local area.

COVID Safe Plan

Under the Stage 4 restrictions, workplaces that remain open must have a COVID Safe Plan in place that is regularly updated (unless you are a small business with fewer than 5 employees). There are also restrictions on working across multiple sites unless an exemption applies and the requirement for essential workers to have a permit to travel to work. We are working with DHHS to provide more information on what this means for dental staff.

More information is available at the Business Victoria website: https://www.business.vic.gov.au/disputes-disasters-and-succession-planning/covid-safe-business/creating-a-covid-safe-workplace#employerobligations

See ADA information about developing a COVID Safe plan: https://www.ada.org.au/Covid-19-Portal/Dental-Professionals

Health and safety

Advice from the Chief Health Officer is that staff may be at risk of more serious illness if they contract COVID-19, if they are:

  • Aged 70 years and older
  • Aged 65 years and older and with chronic medical conditions
  • Of any age and have a compromised immune system
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and are aged over 50 years and with one or more chronic medical conditions.

For that reason, we recommend that dentists consider their own health and that of their staff and family members when deciding whether to continue providing dental care during this period and what type of care they provide.

We will continue to provide updates as the situation evolves and will communicate this as soon as possible. The current situation has created significant concern and uncertainty – please remember that we are all in this together and we will get through it.