In light of the pandemic, many patients have understandably been reluctant and a little uneasy about the prospect of returning to the dentist’s chair. Since COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that primarily spreads through the release of oral and nasal droplets into the air it makes sense for some patients to be a little anxious about undergoing dental treatment at this time.
However, it’s more important now than ever before to look after your oral health.
As we discussed in a previous article, patients with poor dental and oral health can be more likely to contract the virus and suffer certain complications as a result. Plus, a new study has found that dental treatment during the pandemic isn’t necessarily as unsafe as many people mistakenly believe it to be.
Misconceptions about COVID-19 Infections in Dental Clinics
During the study, which was conducted by Ohio State University, researchers collected samples from various surfaces in dental offices. These included equipment, staff members, instruments, and other common surfaces in a dental office. The main fear surrounding going to the dentist is that dental procedures cause an overabundance of airborne saliva aerosol. Researchers wanted to “determine whether saliva is the main source of the spray”.
Upon closely examining the samples taken from various surfaces and equipment in dental offices, researchers made a remarkable discovery. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about dental procedures is that the majority of the liquid aerosols that are sprayed into the air is saliva. According to this research, however, it’s actually water from the irrigation system that patients use to rinse their mouths out during and after any given procedure.
Even asymptomatic patients that do carry some bacteria and pathogens or low levels of COVID-19 in the saliva, aren’t necessarily producing saliva-based aerosols into the air. Instead, the aerosols that were found on various surfaces were generated by irrigation in the dentist’s office. Hence, the microbial and genetic makeup of the organisms in the spray matched that of the cleaning and disinfectant agents found in a regular dentist’s office.
In other words, you have very little to worry about when visiting the dentist as long as your dental clinic is adhering to all of the health and safety regulations.
How Infections Were Detected as Per New Research
Researchers studied 28 different individuals who were undergoing various dental procedures including implants and restorations. These were procedures that involved drilling and ultrasonic scaling. The procedures took place in the Ohio State’s College of Dentistry from May 4 until July 10, 2020.
Before and after each procedure, researchers collected saliva samples from participants as well as water-based cleaning solutions for rinsing out the mouth. Aerosol remnants from face shields and patient bibs were also collected along with surfaces that were six feet away from each patient.
According to similar research that was conducted before the pandemic, aerosols released amidst dental procedures tended to land on the dentist’s faces and on the patient’s chest. That’s why dentists wear facial shields and put a bib on their patients during these procedures.
Low Risk of Viral Transmission during Dental Treatments
Regardless of the surface source of the sample collected, it was found that the microbes within these irrigants made up approximately 78%—the overwhelming majority—of the organisms in the dental office aerosols. Saliva only accounted for a miniscule percentage of about 0.1% to 1.2% of the surface landing microbes.
Despite the incredibly low risk of transmission during dental treatments, it’s still incredibly important to adhere to the strict health and safety guidelines in place. Patients and staff members should have their temperatures checked before entering the clinic. Office administrators are also responsible for providing frequent and conveniently placed hand sanitizer and encourage patients to use it upon entering the premises.
The risk of viral transmission may be low according to this specific study, but the possibility is still there, albeit minimal. Hence, dental clinics need to take every possible precaution to protect their staff and their patients.
How Princeview Dental Group Is Following Strict Infection Control Measures
Naturally, many people are still wondering, “are dental visits safe during the pandemic?”. This is a very good question. According to the findings of the abovementioned research study, the answer is a resounding yes.
At Princeview Dental Group, we’re taking the following infection control measures in total compliance with RCDSO guidelines:
- Routine temperature checks for staff members and patients
- Providing hand sanitizer to all staff members and patients
- Asking COVID-19 symptom-related questions to all of our patients
- All operatory room doors remain closed during treatment
- We’ve installed HEPA filters in our office to fully clear the air in each operatory in under 15 minutes
- Masks must be worn by everyone inside the office, except when receiving treatment or if you have a medical exemption
- All staff must wear full PPE at all times
- Dental instruments and equipment are sterilized before and after each use (normal part of our practice)
- Staff members are screened daily for symptoms and temperature checks
Make an Appointment at Princeview Dental Group
Are dental visits safe during the pandemic? At Princeview Dental Group, we’re taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure that you feel safe to see the dentist during the pandemic. Our goal is to create a safe and healthy environment for both our patients and our staff while administering dental care. If you’re looking for dental treatments in Etobicoke, book an appointment today!