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Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in dental offices very unlikely, study says

Understanding the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 will help dental office owners make appropriate decisions about the protection of staff and patients. (Image: peterschreiber.media/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Fri. 28. May 2021


COLUMBUS, Ohio, U.S.: Researchers worldwide investigate COVID-19, and every week, new information about the illness is discovered or confirmed. A recent study from the Ohio State University has shown yet again that a SARS-CoV-2 infection risk at the dentist’s office is low, despite the tenacious misconception that patients and treatment providers are at high risk of catching COVID-19 at the dentist’s office.

Dental procedures are known to produce a considerable amount of aerosol, and this leads to fears that saliva in the aerosols generated during dental treatments could make the dentist’s chair a high-transmission location since SARS-CoV-2 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets. In order to investigate whether saliva is the main source of the spray, the researchers collected samples from personnel, equipment and other surfaces reached by aerosols during a range of dental procedures.

By analyzing the genetic makeup of the organisms detected in those samples, the researchers determined that dental irrigant, not saliva, was the main source of any bacteria or viruses present in the spatter and spurts from patients’ mouths. Even when low levels of SARS-CoV-2 were detected in the saliva of asymptomatic patients, the aerosols generated during their procedures showed no signs of SARS-CoV-2.

“Getting your teeth cleaned does not increase your risk for COVID-19 infection any more than drinking a glass of water from the dentist’s office does,” said lead author Dr. Purnima Kumar, professor of periodontics at Ohio State. “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 added.

The study, titled “Sources of SARS-CoV-2 and other microorganisms in dental aerosols,” was published online on May 12, 2021, in the Journal of Dental Research, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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