In our recent blog, we mentioned that dentists are one of the occupations with the highest risk of contracting COVID-19. Dentists can easily be exposed to the virus since the dental care setting frequently includes face-to-face communication and exposure to body fluids, such as saliva.
There’s no surprise that many dental offices have decided to close during this time. But for the offices that remain open, we have created a detailed map including all possible transmission routes of COVID-19 in the dental setting.
If you are a dental professional, staff, or just a dental patient, please study the map carefully to see how easy it is for coronavirus to spread in the dental setting. Fully understanding the map also helps suggest possible control procedures that could mitigate infection.
Transmission Routes of COVID-19 in the Dental Setting
In the dental setting, there are two initial causes that could lead to infection.
Dental procedures create particles of droplets and aerosol with COVID-19
Firstly, many dental procedures, such as those including the use of high-speed turbines and running water, release a large number of particles of droplets and aerosols mixed with the patient’s saliva to the air. These particles are so small that they could stay airborne for a considerable period of time.
These particles could also settle on environmental surfaces and other dental equipment. Researches suggest that the virus could live up to 72 hours on hard surfaces. Moreover, the dental office usually includes surfaces of metal, glass, or plastic. Thus, dentists and other patients could easily get infected without proper control procedures. Because it is tough to avoid the generation of particles of droplets and aerosol, this is probably the most important concern for dental professionals.
Infection through direct contact with patients
Like we have said, dentists are at high risk because the work requires working in close proximity to other people. It is impossible to implement social distancing in the dental setting. And most of the time, dentists come in direct contact with the patients’ saliva, which could include coronavirus.
Additionally, because patients won’t wear mask during dental procedures, talking and coughing may release droplets and aerosols with COVID-19 to the air. The virus may then contaminate surfaces and infect dental professionals if they don’t have proper protective equipment.
Finally, dental equipment will be contaminated as well after using them. So remember to apply disinfection measures.
As you can see, it is very easy for a single patient with coronavirus to infect the whole dental office. Therefore, dental professionals must follow strict guidelines prepared by health officials to mitigate the spread of the disease. Additionally, always do patient screening before setting up an appointment. Here’s our comprehensive guide about dental patient screening.
Moreover, since other patients could easily get infected, it is essential to teach them protective measures before coming to the dental office.
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