California health care providers will be challenged to meet the needs of patients during this pandemic, with active COVID-19 cases expected to surpass the medical capability of the state to respond within its normal workforce. Dentists, with their knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and sterile surgical techniques, are invaluable to the health care worker surge capacity necessary to meet this need.

Dentists may register now at the state of California’s Disaster Healthcare Volunteers website. California developed this process in recognition of the need to have a list of pre-credentialed licensed health care volunteers who can be deployed without interruption to assist with critical emergency care needs.

The registration process provides dentists with a few options to determine the level at which they wish to volunteer and mentions two trained and ongoing emergency response teams: the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) and the California Medical Assistance Team (CAL-MAT). Providers may choose either of these response teams or another option to participate in county-level response and volunteer on a single event basis. Registration will allow local hospitals with the most need to utilize dentists’ skills in this time of dire need.

How dentists can help in catastrophic emergencies

Some of the ways in which dentists can provide assistance may include:

Taking vital signs.

COVID-19 testing.


Treating emergencies, including providing local anesthesia and suturing.

Administering oxygen.

Administering injectables, including vaccinations.

Writing prescriptions.

Oral surgeons and dentist anesthesiologists have additional training and can intubate and provide deep sedation/general anesthesia services.

Based on lessons learned from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, changes were made in California law to allow flexibility on scope and licensure in the time of a catastrophic emergency. The law also provides immunity from liability for care provided “in good faith” during an emergency for a person who “voluntarily and without compensation or expectations of compensation, and consistent with the dental education and emergency training that he or she has received, provides emergency medical care to a person during a state of emergency” (Business and Professions Code §1627.5).

Personal protective equipment donations encouraged in local communities

Along with a dire need for skilled assistance, hospitals and local emergency authorities across California need donations of spare personal protective equipment. Dentists may donate the following items that they don’t anticipate using for emergency care:

N95 masks

Surgical masks

Face shields




Hand sanitizer

Dentists are encouraged to deliver spare supplies directly to places in need in their communities such as hospitals and emergency services departments. Dentists may contact their local dental societies if they need guidance on where to deliver supplies. Additionally, many dentists, including oral surgeons and endodontists, are still accepting referrals for emergency care only while they have supplies.

The CDA Foundation has donated a supply of 15,000 masks, 25,000 gloves and 2,000 gowns to a Southern California hospital in an effort to protect medical professionals providing care during the pandemic.

As health care workers, dentists fully understand the importance of having adequate supplies of PPE to help prevent the spread of diseases. Protecting health care workers who are directly caring for sick patients during the pandemic is paramount to reduce the risk to our families, friends and communities.

Check for the latest information on CDA's response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

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