The American Dental Education Association’s comments in a letter submitted to a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, underscored the crucial role that oral healthcare plays in an individual’s overall well-being.

The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is calling for members of the dental health care team, including dental and dental allied students providing patient care, to be among those healthcare workers to first receive any vaccine developed for COVID-19.

In comments submitted to a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, ADEA voiced its support for a draft federal plan to prioritize distribution of a vaccine.

“ADEA concurs with The National Academies’ Committee on Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus recommendation that ‘high-risk workers in health care facilities,’ including clinicians, such as dental practitioners and dental hygienists, need to be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” ADEA stated in its comments, which were submitted by ADEA president and chief executive officer Karen P. West, DMD, MPH.

“Additionally, ADEA supports the Committee’s recognition and inclusion of other members of the dental healthcare team, such as dental assistants, dental therapists, and dental laboratory technicians.

The group also pointed out that the dental and dental allied students as well as the medical and nursing students who are providing patient care in these same healthcare facilities are also at high risk and should be included in this definition.

In her comments, West underscored the crucial role that oral healthcare plays in an individual’s overall well-being, noting that periodontal disease found in the oral cavity has been associated with several health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. HIV also can be detected with saliva samples.

“All of these realities justify the Committee’s conclusion that oral health professionals are vitally important to primary care,” West wrote. Additionally, she highlighted the fact that dental school clinics deliver dental care to the economically disadvantaged.

“It is essential to ensure that practicing educator clinicians, students, and staff of these dental academic school facilities and hospitals receive the vaccine to protect them from the elevated risk they face as they provide the much-needed dental care to those unable to afford private practice fees,” she wrote.