Study Confirms COVID Infection Rates of Dentists Remain Lower Than Other Health Professionals

Enhanced infection control procedures help keep infection rate low among dentists

A dental resident examining a young patient. Despite a high risk of COVID-19 transmission, infection rates among dentists are actually lower than among other front-line health professionals.

Enhanced infection control protocols have helped keep COVID-19 infection rates low among dentists. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health photo)

A new study co-authored by School of Dental Medicine faculty and published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) confirmed that dentists—despite their high risk of transmission of COVID-19— continue to have a lower infection rate than other front-line health professionals, such as nurses and physicians.

The study, conducted over a 6 month period, was co-authored by Dr. Effie Ioannidou, professor of periodontology at the School of Dental Medicine and member of the American Dental Association (ADA) Council on Scientific Affairs. Researchers from the ADA and the University of Alabama joined Ioannidou in authoring the report.

Dr. Effie Ioannidou
Dr. Effie Ioannidou (contributed photo)

“It was another excellent experience to collaborate with the team at the ADA Science and Research Institute and Health Policy as well as Dr. Geisinger from the University of Alabama,” said Ioannidou. “Our goal was to collect and analyze national long term data on the COVID-19 infection rates for dentists in the US. The study revealed a low cumulative prevalence of COVID-19 among dentists.”

The study showed the cumulative infection rate for U.S. dentists is 2.6%, with the monthly incidence rate ranging from 0.2% to 1.1% per month. By comparison, in June 2020, the cumulative COVID-19 prevalence rate for other U.S. health professionals ranged from 3.3% to 35.3%. The data was collected from June 2020 to November 2020 via a survey of over 2,100 licensed dentists in public and private practice in the United States.

The low infection rate can be attributed to a high level of adherence to enhanced infection control procedures and strict protocols, according to the study. “Our study showed that pre-appointment screening practices and high levels of infection control measures with enhanced PPE in the dental offices played an important role in keeping the infection rates low. The study confirmed that dental care has been delivered safely with strict protocols to protect patients and the dental team” Ioannidou said.

UConn School of Dental Medicine has been following protocols as recommended by the CDC, ADA, and the CT Department of Public Health. As a result, there has been no known COVID-19 transmission associated with the dental clinics in the School of Dental Medicine.

The JADA study is a continuation of an October 2020 report, also co-authored by Ioannidou, that showed low incidence rates of COVID-19 among dentists in the U.S.