Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the essential health services have been disrupted since the existing health system has been less resilient in the African Region and/or overstretched can easily be overwhelmed by the focus on COVID-19 and its response. Additionally, people’s healthcare-seeking behaviour has been interrupted by various factors, e.g. movement restrictions and the impact of fear and stigma especially during the first months of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oral Health has been less prioritised globally and regionally despite its burden and importance (e.g. around half of population suffering from oral disorders in 2017). The COVID-19 pandemic makes the situation of oral health worse. According to a recent WHO global assessment on the continuity of essential health service during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 70% of countries reported that oral health service has been partially or completely disrupted. This figure is higher than any other type of the essential health service
Indeed, oral health care settings are considered to pose a risk of COVID-19 transmission. Their procedures involve face to face communication and frequent exposure to saliva, blood, and other body fluids and; handling sharp instruments. Consequently, health care workers are at high risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or passing the infection to patients. Additionally, oral health care procedures use equipment such as highspeed drills and ultrasonic scalers which are aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs). The risk of airborne COVID-19 transmission, when AGPs are performed, cannot be excluded.
Under this situation, the WHO Oral Health Programme has just published the interim guidance on considerations for the provision of essential oral health services in the context of COVID-19
https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/333625 to address specific needs and considerations for essential oral health services in the context of COVID-19 in accordance with WHO operational guidance.