Dental Procedures Not Riskier Than A Drink Of Water

Research Finds Almost No Risk Of Covid Spread By Dental Office Visits

Recent research finds that there is no basis to the fear that there is a high risk of developing COVID by a visit to the dentist. The idea sprang from the belief that flying saliva from dental procedures can spread from patient to patient. This study was published Wednesday, May 12, in the Journal of Dental Research.

"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 Purnima Kumar, professor of periodontology at Ohio State.

Scientists and practitioners from Ohio State University collected samples from areas of likely contaminations including dentists, assistants, countertops and equipment that could be reached by spray during procedures.

They found that water from the irrigation spray and handpiece spray was the source of 99% of any bacteria or viruses found on surfaces other than the patient.

Any organisms that were found were identified by modern techniques including genome sequencing technology. The splatter was found to contain organisms from tap water while saliva accounted for only
0.1% to 1.2% of germs found around the room.

A relevant finding was that pre procedural rinsing eliminated almost 50% of detectable bacteria, and COVD virus was identified in the saliva of a few patients but there was no COVD detectable in any surface or spray on any of the surfaces or on personnel.

Dentists have been active in infection-control practices for many decades. Using new protocols including better ventilation systems, aerosol suction equipment, N95 masks and face shields and room cleaning between patients has become standard practice. This study should make patients feel more relaxed about being at the dentist's office since it is the water from the ultrasonic equipment of the dental handpiece that sprays around the room, not saliva.

Mask precautions about speaking, coughing or sneezing in the dental office should still remain in place because these are still the main avenues of transmission.

Co-authors included Archana Meethil, Shwetha Saraswat and Shareef Dabdoub of Ohio State and Prem Prashant Chaudhary of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

  1. A.P. Meethil, S. Saraswat, P.P. Chaudhary, S.M. Dabdoub, P.S. Kumar. Sources of SARS-CoV-2 and Other Microorganisms in Dental AerosolsJournal of Dental Research, 2021; 002203452110159 DOI: 10.1177/00220345211015948