When the COVID-19 virus was first identified, many assumed that the oral health industry would be the hardest hit. This initial distinction of dentistry offices being high-risk environments came from the degree of close contact between oral health providers and their patients. Yet, even during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, the infection rate in oral health offices among patients remained surprisingly low, directly conflicting with this initial prediction.
While this low infection rate is partially due to procedures that were in place before the pandemic, many health offices are employing the use of new infection control protocols specifically designed to protect patients and staff from exposure to COVID-19 when going to the dentist.
Low Rates of Infection Within Orthodontic and Dentistry Businesses
By nature, dental and orthodontic offices involve prolonged close contact which can be challenging to contend with during the pandemic. One of the big risks for COVID-19 transmission is the tools that these health professionals use to provide care. Dental equipment such as drills, air-water syringes, and ultrasonic scalers can create a dangerous spray of COVID-19 droplets, which are aerosolized and have the potential to linger in the air for up to three hours.
According to dentist experts, Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in Baltimore, Louis G. DePaola puts it best stating, “Dentists are typically 12 to 18 inches away from their patients…to do their work dentists have to lean close into what currently is the most infectious part of a person if they have COVID-19—their mouth.” However, despite that risk, plenty of practices are still able to effectively mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
A study published by the American Dental Association, less than one percent of dentists in the US have been diagnosed with COVID-19. This study surveyed roughly 2,200 dentists in June of 2020. Of those surveyed, 82 percent stated that they were asymptomatic a month before they were studied, and 17 percent reported that they had received a test for COVID-19. This remarkably small number of dental industry cases showcases just how effective safe dentistry through sanitization and viral countermeasures can be.
How You Can Protect Your Practice from Spreading COVID-19
While oral health offices still pose a risk for COVID-19 infection, the chances of exposure can be reduced by following guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and by utilizing adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).The CDC recommends that oral health care providers wear the following PPE and dental products when treating patients:
- Surgical masks
- Eye protection (such as goggles or face shields)
- Gowns or other forms of protective clothing
When used properly, PPE can provide protection from the splattering of blood or other bodily fluids, which is common within oral health practices.
Some oral healthcare practices featured the use of specialty ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, or UVGI, to counteract the spread of COVID-19. This method of using UV light is highly effective at mitigating viral spread, as the virus’s DNA and RNA are broken down on a molecular level. It is important to keep in mind that UVGI should only ever be used to sanitize objects, as prolonged direct contact can be dangerous, especially when focused on the skin and eyes.
To ensure even greater patient and staff safety dental health facilities have implemented the use of high-efficiency particulate air filters. These filters are designed to significantly improve room filtration, which in turn can reduce transmission of airborne COVID-19 particles. Pre-screening patients can before visiting dentists can also play a huge role in limiting the risk of COVID-19 infection. By issuing temperature checks before entry, and asking patients about potential COVID-19 exposure, dental health professionals can get a better gauge of who they are potentially treating.
Dental Supplies for COVID-19 Prevention
Ensuring the safety of your patients and staff can be a real challenge without the right help. Between PPE, glove dispensers, air filtration, and social distancing signage, there is a lot that your facility may need to adhere to CDC guidelines and achieve peace of mind. CNECT partners with Henry Schein Dental to provide our members a diverse catalog of oral health products. When you sign up to become a member of CNECT, you’ll get access to a growing list of GPO supplier contracts filled with the equipment and services you need to meet your patients' oral health needs. Contact CNECT today to learn more about how we can help keep your staff and patients safe.