The recent spread of COVID-19 has affected the whole international community and caused a widespread public health crisis. Despite global efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, the outbreak is still on a rise due to the community spread pattern of this virus. Once it’s in the human body, this can abundantly present in nasopharyngeal and salivary secretions of affected patients. Its spread is also predominantly thought to be respiratory droplet or in contact in nature.
Health workers including dental professionals are most likely to encounter patients with confirmed COVID-19, so they are really at risk. Due to the possibility of aerosols produced by saliva droplets, dental professionals should be more careful. They can easily inhale the droplets or it can come into contact with their skin. Additionally, it can lodge on the surfaces of the dental clinic or other materials used during the dental appointment. Therefore, to manage the threat of continued coronavirus infection, dental health professionals need up-to-date information and guidance. This is made not only to provide care for them but also to prevent nosocomial spread of the coronavirus infection.
This article is written to discuss why dental care professionals are really prone to COVID-19 infection. Furthermore, we are also going to share what dental professionals can do to help to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Why Dental Professionals are at Risk to Coronavirus?
Given the widespread transmission of COVID-19 and reports of its impact on health care professionals, dental professionals are also at high risk.
They are also prone to nosocomial infection and can become potential carriers of the disease. These health risks are attributed to the nature of dental works, which include the handling of sharps and aerosol generation. Dentists who perform aerosol-generating procedures may be unaware that they are providing direct care for infected but not yet diagnosed. They may be unknowingly giving dental care to those considered to be suspected or under surveillance.
Inhalation of airborne particles or aerosols produced during dental procedures on patients with COVID-19 can be a high-risk procedure. This can make the dentists directly and closely exposed to the coronavirus. The proximity of dental professionals to the patient’s oropharyngeal region can also contribute to the transmission of the virus.
Therefore, it is crucial for dental care professionals to refine preventive strategies to avoid COVID-19 infection. Aside from hand hygiene and using personal protective equipment (PPE), they should also know their patients’ placement. Since this novel disease is continuously spreading, dental workers should be more prepared to identify a possible COVID-19 carrier. Once identified, they should refer these patients with suspected COVID-19 infection to appropriate health treatment centers.
Moreover, due to the characteristics of dental settings, the risk of cross infections is high between dental practitioners and patients. The standard protective measures in daily clinical work may not be effective enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in dental offices. The main reason is dental offices are where a large number of droplets and aerosols are present. This may worsen the situation when patients are in the incubation period and are unaware that they are infected.
Also, the dental office/clinic can potentially expose patients to cross-contamination if adequate precautions are not practiced. For dental offices worldwide, as coronavirus is considered a pandemic, strict and effective infection control protocols are urgently needed.
What Can Dental Professionals Do to Protect Themselves and their Patients?
- The COVID-19 can persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days, depending on the type of surface, the temperature or the humidity of the environment. This reinforces the need for a proper way and thorough disinfection of all surfaces within dental offices/clinics.
- Every surface in the clinic’s waiting room must be considered at risk. Therefore, it’s important to provide adequate periodic air exchange in all surfaces, chairs, walls and doors. These surfaces should be considered “potentially infected” as well since healthcare professionals and patients have had touched it.
- Proper hand hygiene has been considered the most critical measure for lessening the risk of transmitting the virus to patients.
- It is also necessary to provide alcohol or disinfectants and masks available to patients in waiting rooms.
- The entire air conditioning system at the dental clinic must be sanitized frequently, as well.
- Using the personal protective equipment including gloves, masks, gowns and face shields is recommended. This equipment can protect the skin and mucosa from potentially infected blood or saliva.
- As respiratory droplets are the main route of transmission, particulate respirators like N-95 masks or FFP2-standard masks are best recommended.
It is more likely that your dentist or dental hygienist will contact you to postpone dental appointments, due to COVID-19. Dental professionals have also decided to close their clinics/offices during this time. There are also others that are open but running limited services.
Whenever possible, stay at home and help stop the spread of the virus. Even if you do not have any COVID-19 symptoms or other health conditions. You may continue or reschedule your appointment with your dentist as soon as this pandemic stops.
If you are planning to have dental care consultation after the lockdown, you can visit Osmin Denture Clinic Toronto. You may also contact us at 647-294-3310 or email us at email@example.com if you have questions about your dental needs.