Despite high risk of transmission of COVID-19, fewer than one percent of dentists nationwide were found to be COVID-19 positive, according to a report published by the Journal of the American Dental Association. In addition, the report found that 99 percent of dentists are using enhanced infection control procedures, such as screenings and enhanced disinfections. This report, based on data collected from 2,200 dentists in June 2020, is the first of its kind.
Dr. Effie Ioannidou, professor of periodontology at the UConn School of Dental Medicine, co-authored this report along with Dr. Cameron Estrich, Dr. Marko Vujicic, Dr. Marcelo Araujo, Matthew Mikkelsen, and Rachel Morrissey at the American Dental Association, and Dr. Maria Geisinger at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“This project was exciting for multiple reasons,” says Ioannidou. “First, it was an opportunity to collaborate with excellent scientists from the ADA and other institutions. Second, using large data, we tackled an important question regarding COVID prevalence and positivity rates in the dental community and we showed that, in our sample of more than 2000 dentist the prevalence of COVID-19 was less than 1%.”
“This groundbreaking study provides additional data that support that, as a result of continuing and enhanced efforts by the dental community, we are able to meet the dental healthcare needs of our patients in the safest manner possible,” says Dr. Steven Lepowsky, interim dean at the UConn School of Dental Medicine.
To conduct the research, the authors had licensed dentists practicing in public health or private practice in the United States participate in a web-based survey with questions related to symptoms, COVID-19 infection, mental and physical health conditions, and infection control procedures used in their primary dental practice.
The results indicated that most of the dentists (82.2%) had no symptoms for one month before administration of the survey. Out of the 16% being tested for COVID-19, 3.7%, 2.7%, and 0% tested positive via respiratory, blood, and salivary samples. The survey also found that 99.7% of practices implemented enhanced infection control procedures, most commonly enhanced disinfection, COVID-19 screening, social distancing, and masking.
The research suggests that current infection control recommendations from the Center for Disease Control will continue to contribute to the reduced risk of developing infection during the delivery of oral health care. Risks associated to nonclinical and community spread, the report finds, might pose the substantial risk for the exposure of dentists to COVID-19.