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Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

For the latest updates, please see the ADA Coronavirus Center 

Last Updated: March 27, 2020Image of white face mask on a blue background

The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes the importance of providing the profession with credible information that will protect both patients and dental health care personnel at a time when information is constantly being updated.

We will update this page and make announcements via ADA News and the ADA Morning Huddle as they become available.

This document provides answers to some recent member question regarding:

  • Staff and Office Protection and Asepsis
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including masks
    • Maintaining the Practice’s Physical Environment
    • COVID-19 Infection Control Protocols and Procedures Webinar
  • HIPAA Considerations
    • HIPAA and Family Disclosures
    • Disclosures to Law Enforcement, Paramedics, Other First Responders and Public Health Authorities
  • Patient Communication
    • Questions to Ask Patients 
    • What to do if COVID-19 is Suspected in Patient
    • How to Offer Emergency Care to Patient with COVID-19
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Employer and Employee Issues

  • What should employee dentists do when their employer refuses to close offices per ADA or state guidance?
  • Since coronavirus can spread via aerosol transmission, should my staff be using scaling instruments or hand pieces any differently than we usually do?
  • I’ve seen a lot of information about managing patient exposures: what should we do if there’s a case of potential or actual employee exposure?
  • Should staff report to work with acute respiratory symptoms?

Financial and Dental Benefit Considerations

  • What is business interruption insurance and can it help cover this risk?
  • I’m a new dentist and am barely working because of the COVID-19 pandemic. My financial situation is very tight: can I postpone making payments on my student loan until I'm working again?
  • Should I refinance my student loans while interest rates are lower?
  • Are there any changes to federal tax deadlines of which I should be aware?
  • My practice revenue has dropped because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m not sure how we’re going to meet fixed expenses, pay my staff and take an income to support my own family. Does the federal government have a program to help small businesses, like dental practices, that have been financially impacted by the pandemic?
  • Where can I find coding and billing information for teledentistry appointments?
  • I have never provided an evaluation virtually, but understand that it might be a helpful way for my patients to access my care without making come into my office unnecessarily. How would I start incorporating this into my practice?

Staff and Office Protection and Asepsis

  • What do we do about the shortage of masks?
  • Should masks be only single use?
  • Should we close the practice if we run out of masks and our vendors and distributors have put caps on how much, and how often, we can get new shipments?
  • I have noticed it is easier to purchase ASTM Level 1 masks than Level 2 or Level 3. What is the difference between the levels? How do I know which to buy?
  • Should clinical staff wear N-95 respirators?
  • Should we ask patients to wait in their cars until we can treat them so they aren’t sitting in crowded waiting rooms or reception areas?
  • Should we have glass partitions between the front office staff and the waiting room when possible to decrease the risk of staff exposure?
  • How can I watch the on-demand COVID-19 infection control webinar with the Organization for Safety, Asepsis, and Prevention (OSAP)?

HIPAA Considerations

  • A patient with a confirmed case of COVID-19 is claiming we violated her HIPAA Privacy Rights by contacting her husband and asking him to cancel his upcoming appointment since he’s in close contact with someone who has the disease. She’s threatened to file a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights. Does she have a valid complaint? Did we violate HIPAA? We thought we were doing the right thing to protect other patients and our staff.
  • Can I give the name of a patient who has been infected with or exposed to COVID-19 to a law enforcement official, paramedic, other first responder, or public health authority? Or do I need to get the patient’s authorization first?

Patient Communication

  • What questions should we ask our patients in order to identify their symptoms and decide whether to cancel an appointment?
  • What should we do if we suspect a patient has COVID-19? Do we notify the local or state health department?
  • What if a patient has the virus, but urgently needs dental treatment? How do we proceed to provide care?

Questions regarding coronavirus, the virus which causes COVID-19