If you’re worried about going to the dentist in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a new study might ease your fears.
Researchers with the American Dental Association Science and Research Institute found less than 1% of dentists surveyed caught COVID-19 after reopening their offices.
The study, titled Estimating COVID-19 Prevalence and Infection Control Practices Among US Dentists, was published by the Journal of the American Dental Association on Oct. 15. Researchers surveyed 2,195 dentists from every state and Puerto Rico starting in June, according to an ADA news release.
Only 20 respondents “had a confirmed or probable COVID-19 infection,” the release says.
“When the results were weighted according to age and location to…all U.S. dentists, 0.9% were estimated to have…COVID-19, with a margin of error of 0.5%.” according to the release.
About 2% of Americans have been reported to have a confirmed case of COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Johns Hopkins University. The country has reported over 7.9 million confirmed cases, Johns Hopkins University says.
Of the dentists surveyed, nearly all of them (99.7%) reported implementing “enhanced infection prevention and control procedures,” the release says.
Those procedures included “disinfecting all equipment and surfaces that are commonly touched, checking staff and patient temperatures, screening patients for COVID-19, encouraging distance between patients while waiting, and providing face masks to staff,” according to the release.
“This is very good news for dentists and patients,” said Dr. Marcelo Araujo, senior author of the study, according to the ADA. “This means that what dentists are doing — heightened infection control and increased attention to patient and dental team safety — is working.”
In the spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended delaying “elective procedures and non-urgent dental visits,” McClatchy News reported. The guidance also included recommendations for “infection prevention and control practices.”
In August, the World Health Organization urged people to postpone “non-essential oral health care” visits as well, including cleanings and check-ups, McClatchy News reported.
“Their procedures involve face-to-face communication and frequent exposure to saliva, blood and other body fluids and handling sharp instruments,” the WHO guidance said. “Consequently, they are at high risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or passing the infection to patients.”
Offices started reopening during the pandemic in the spring, according to reporting from McClatchy News.. At that time, some hygienists were skeptical about reopening dental offices.
“We don’t think the risk of exposing extra people to potentially contracting this virus is worth it for us at this point,” Kyra Reames, a dental hygienist in Arkansas, told KNWA. “They are asking us to electively let patients into our laps with no masks on them because we are working in their mouths.”
But after several months of being reopened, some hygienists became more confident in how effective the new measures were in preventing the spread of COVID-19, the Star-Telegram reported.
“I’ve always considered our clinic a sterile environment because of all the sterilization we do, even on a normal basis,” Brittany Wragg, a dental hygienist at Drennan Family Dentistry in Texas, said. “But now we’re doing even more.”