How Dentists Can Help When Disaster Strikes


Dentists have an extensive set of skills that could be tapped to help the nation respond in the event of a mass disaster, says The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA).

JADAs April edition includes three articles and a guest editorial on dentistry as a ready reserve to supplement the medical response to natural disasters and bioterrorism.

Author of the guest editorial is E. Dianne Rekow, DDS, PhD, professor and chair in the Department of Biological Science, Medicine and Surgery at New York University College of Dentistry.

We [dentists] are well-versed in the daily practice of infection control, taking and using information from medical histories to guide our actions, taking and interpreting radiographs, administering injections, suturing wounds, managing infections, prescribing medications and making diagnoses on the basis of clinical signs and symptoms, Rekow says.

She notes, too, that dentists are particularly well-schooled in managing patients who are stressed and fearful. Citing a study on terrorism and public health, Rekow reports that for every person affected by a bioterrorist attack, between 10 and 100 unaffected people will demand treatment.

Unless all healthcare workers, including dentists, are called on to assist in the response and recovery, she explains, medical responders could be quickly overwhelmed.

Dentists, says Rekow, need to do a better job of informing physicians and the public about the range of skills they have that could be useful in disaster response. She adds that dentists need to work toward modifying state dental practice acts to permit an expanded scope in mass-casualty situations.

Related articles in April JADA focus on:

Illinois Public Act 49-409, which took effect in January and describes dentists and dental hygienists as acting within the bounds of [their] license when providing care during a declared local, state or national emergencyjust the sort of legislative change that Rekow favors.

A survey of Hawaiian dentists, assessing their preparedness to respond to bioterrorism.

A report on the dentists role in detecting early signs of smallpox infection, providing the public with information about the disease and assisting in the administration of smallpox vaccine.

Source: American Dental Association


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