Dental Board Adopts Pandemic Emergency Rule Amendment

By Jeanine Lehman, Attorney at Law

The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners held an emergency board meeting on the evening of August 24, 2020 to discuss and take action on an amendment to emergency board rule 108.7(16) concerning the standards for safe practice during the COVID-19 disaster.  In response to Texas Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA 19, that rule was adopted earlier in the pandemic to allow dental practices to re-open.  The board meeting was held via Zoom, broadcast on a YouTube channel – demonstrating the hard work and resiliency of the dental board and dental community during this pandemic.

The dental board unanimously adopted three changes to the emergency board rule.

  • Dental Health Care Personnel (DHCP) may resume the use of ultrasonic devices for hygiene services. The language in the rule requiring DHCP to use only hand instruments and low speed polishing tools for hygiene services was deleted.
  • DHCP are no longer required to complete the full treatment of one patient before leaving the treatment area and going on to another patient.
  • DHCP are required to remove PPE before returning home, but are no longer required to change from scrubs to personal clothing.

The amendment to emergency board rule 108.7(16) became effective on August 25, 2020 after being reviewed by the Texas Governor’s office.  The rule is available on the dental board’s website at tsbde.texas.gov/78i8ljhbj/Emergency-Rule-108.7-Updated-1.pdf and in the September 4, 2020 issue of the Texas Register.  The rule will be in effect for 120 days unless changed by the dental board or unless the COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration of Governor Abbott is terminated.

During the meeting, board members made several observations including that the dental profession is doing a good job, that there have been no dental cluster outbreaks of COVID-19, that dentists must be mindful of what infection control is in place for practices, and that dentists need to look at board rules and set standards for every office.

In addition to the specific dental board guidelines for safe practice during the COVID-19 disaster in the emergency rule, the emergency rule incorporates by reference the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines.  This is a changing area, so dentists will want to review the emergency rule as amended and the CDC guidelines and to look frequently for new developments in board rules and CDC guidelines.

During the August 24, 2020 meeting, the board also unanimously approved the appointment of attorney Casey Nichols as the new dental board Executive Director effective September 1, 2020.  Ms. Nichols was formerly the General Counsel of the dental board.

Jeanine Lehman is an Austin, Texas dental, health and business law attorney with a statewide practice – www.jeanine.com. She can be reached at (512) 918-3435 or Jeanine@Jeanine.com. © Jeanine Lehman 2020. This article is not legal advice.