We know COVID spreads mainly through respiratory droplets and the fear of dental aerosols during cleanings has kept many patients away from the dentist’s chair.
When saliva was considered potentially deadly at the start of the pandemic, Dr. Purnima Kumar from Ohio State University decided a long-term answer was needed to settle the question of whether saliva is the source of dental aerosols.
Researchers collected samples from personnel, equipment, and other surfaces reached by aerosols during dental procedures. Samples showed that watery solution from the dental tools and not saliva were the main source of water droplets.
Even when low levels of the COVID virus were detected in the saliva of asymptomatic patients, the aerosols generated during their procedures showed no signs of the coronavirus.
Dr. Kumar said “These findings should help us open up our practices, make ourselves feel safe about our environment and, for patients, get their oral and dental problems treated — there is so much evidence emerging that if you have poor oral health, you are more susceptible to COVID”
Kumar noted that dentistry has long been at the forefront of infection-control practices in health care. During the pandemic, new protocols have included strengthened ventilation systems, extra aerosol suction equipment, N95 masks and face shields on top of goggles, and extended downtime between patients. She is hopeful this study’s findings will make practitioners and patients feel at ease about being in the dentist’s office — with continued stringent protection in place.
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Ohio State University. “Dental procedures during pandemic are no riskier than a drink of water, study finds: Research shows SARS-CoV-2 infection risk at the dentist’s office is low.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 May 2021. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210513084956.htm.