CHICAGO, Illinois – If you think of the coronavirus as the ultimate excuse to avoid the dentist, you might be surprised at the results of a new report that reveals dentists are among the less likely healthcare professionals to contract COVID-19. While we might expect such a profession in the face (or in the mouth) to be high risk, less than one percent of dentists nationwide have tested positive for the virus.
How is it possible? For starters, researchers say 99.7% of dentists have stepped up infection control procedures. This includes the following guidelines from the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“This is very good news for dentists and patients,” said lead author of the study Marcelo Araujo, CEO of the ADA Institute of Science and Research, said in a statement. hurry. “This means that what dentists do – increased infection control and increased attention to patient and dental team safety – is working. “
End the myths about dental offices
The New York Times in March flagged dentistry as one of the highest-risk occupations based on data from the US Department of Labor. During dental procedures, not only is social distancing impossible, but there is also the potential for virus-laden aerosols to swirl around the room.
Despite dire media predictions, the study’s authors find that dental professionals have shifted into high gear to tackle risks. Their determination appears to be paying off, according to the results of the first-ever large-scale study of dentistry during the coronavirus pandemic.
Improved screening protocols and disinfection practices were quickly adopted in dental offices across the country, including disinfection of all equipment and surfaces that are commonly affected. Offices have also started checking staff and patient temperatures and screening patients for COVID-19. Dental professionals have worn personal protective equipment (PPE) to the highest standard, using masks, goggles and face shields. They also adopted ADA’s interim guidelines for using rubber dams, high-speed suction and for cleaning teeth by hand instead of ultrasonic scaling to reduce aerosols.
Researchers gathered information in June 2020 from 2,195 dentists representing each state and Puerto Rico. Participants responded to an online survey that included questions about protective measures taken in connection with COVID-19 and their personal health.
Dentists beat COVID ratings
Of the dentists surveyed, 20 had confirmed or probable COVID-19 infections. By weighing the results by age and geographic location, researchers estimate that only 0.9 percent of dentists nationwide have confirmed or probable infections. The results have a 0.5% margin of error.
The results of the report revealed that 82.2 percent of dentists were asymptomatic in the month prior to the survey. Another 16.6% had been tested for COVID-19. Of those tested, 3.7 percent and 2.7 percent tested positive with respiratory and blood samples, respectively. There were no positive saliva tests. For those who weren’t tested, 0.3 percent received a probable diagnosis from a doctor.
“The fact that dentistry has been named one of the professions most at risk of infection, but that it has a much lower prevalence of infection than other health professions, is no coincidence.” adds the chief economist and vice-president of the ADA Health Policy Institute. Marko Vujicic, Ph.D. “The profession has taken this issue very seriously, and it shows. We will continue to monitor the rate of COVID-19 among dentists and other facets of the pandemic affecting dentistry so that it can help educate the dental profession and other industries as well. “
The study authors say the results of their findings support the effectiveness of following CDC and ADA guidelines in limiting the spread of COVID-19 infections among dentists. Researchers continue to collect data that will include dental hygienists in the results of the next survey.
So apologize and take care of your teeth because cavities and gingivitis don’t know or care about COVID-19.
The results are published in The Journal of the American Dental Association.