Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, there has been a growing concern amongst everyone regarding the safety of dental procedures. Many people suffering from dental diseases and require emergency dental care cannot reach out to their dentists due to the fear of catching the covid-19 infection. However, is it really dangerous to opt for a dental procedure during this time? A recent study conducted at Ohio State’s College of Dentistry aimed towards finding the answer to this question.
It is now well established that the main entry points for the SARS-CoV-2 in the nose and the mouth. The infection spreads mainly by respiratory droplets. This led to safety concerns over dental procedures as saliva was considered the most dangerous infective agent. Dental procedures generally take the help of high-powered dental drills and ultrasonic scalers. These types of equipment are known to produce aerosols. It was thought that the aerosol produced in the dental clinic could be the source of covid-19 transmission.
Previously it was found that the aerosol produced during routine dental restorative and cleaning procedures landed on the dentist’s face and the patient’s chest. It was also found that these aerosol particles travelled to a distance of 11 feet. However, it is must to note that the research facilities were not as advanced during the times these researches were conducted.
Owing to this, Dr. Purnima Kumar, lead author of the study and a periodontologist at Ohio State University, conducted thorough research to determine the safety of dental procedures during the pandemic. The study aimed to determine whether saliva is the main component of the dental aerosol and the source of transmission of the coronavirus in the dental clinic. Researchers collected samples from dental personnel, equipment, and other areas where aerosol was likely to reach during the dental procedures. Samples from the patients undergoing the dental procedures were also collected.
The tests aimed at analyzing the genetic makeup of the organisms that were found in the sample. The researchers found out that the main component of the aerosol was the water used for irrigation during the dental procedures and not the saliva itself. It was also seen that this water coming from the irrigation tools during the dental procedure was the source of bacteria, not the saliva itself. The microbial presence in the aerosol was similar to the ones naturally found in the water and the environment. Thus, proving that getting dental treatment is no more hazardous than drinking a glass of water at a dentist’s office.
Patients who had low levels of SARS-Cov-2 virus undergoing dental procedures were also tested. Even though the virus could be seen in the salivary samples, there were no traces of the coronavirus in the aerosol. Furthermore, a mouth rinse before the procedure significantly reduced the viral load in the mouth and inactivated the virus. Dr. Purnima Kumar further mentioned that regular teeth cleaning and other dental restorative procedures in the dental office were not responsible for increasing the risk for covid-19 infection any more than consuming a glass of water in the dental office.
The study conducted at Ohio State’s College of dentistry saw a participation of 28 individuals who were scheduled to receive dental implants and dental restorations from May to July of 2020. High-speed drills and ultrasonic scaling were predominantly used during these procedures. The study also involved patients in who low levels of SARS-CoV-2 were detected. Samples of patients undergoing the treatment were collected before and 30 minutes after completing the treatment. The irritant solution was also analyzed. Patients were also asked to rinse their mouth with medicated mouthwash before treatment.
Furthermore, samples from the dentist’s face shield, patient’s bib, and area 6 feet away from the dental chair were collected. All of these samples were analyzed through genomic sequencing to explore the microbial flora in them. They saw that the genetic composition of these organisms matched the organism naturally present in the environment. No traces of coronavirus was seen in the aerosol.
These conclusions are of extreme value for people in need of dental treatments but cannot get them due to the fear of the virus. Moreover, it is seen that people with good oral health have lower infectivity and recover faster than people with poor oral health. Maintaining good oral hygiene combined with regular dental checkups at our clinic is more critical now than it was ever.
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DISCLAIMER: The advice offered is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. It is in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.