Data published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) shows that less than 1% of dentists in the United States were found to have COVID-19. The data was collected in June during a peak in the pandemic. The study also found that 99.7% of dentists are using enhanced infection control and prevention measures.
During the initial pandemic period, dentistry was thought to be among the highest-risk professions due to proximity with patients and aerosol-generating dental procedures. The new data may indicate that dentists’ baseline infection control, prevention measures and personal protective equipment – as well enhanced safety measures – may minimize risk and create safe treatment environments for dentists, dental staff and patients.
“The extremely low infection rate supports the effectiveness of the recommendations from the American Dental Association, CDC and other agencies in helping to keep the dental team and their patients as safe as possible,” said Dr. Mia Geisinger, professor of periodontology at the UAB School of Dentistry and a co-author of the report. “The bottom line is that the dental profession has taken this issue extremely seriously, and it shows. This means that what dentists are doing – heightened infection control and increased attention to patient and dental team safety – is working.”
This is the first large-scale collection and publication of infection rates among dentists in the United States, according to JADA. The report reviewed nearly 2,200 dentists, finding that 82% were asymptomatic for one month prior to the survey and 16.6% got tested for COVID-19. Among all dentists, less than 1% received a positive test or were given a probable COVID-19 diagnosis by a physician.
ADA officials and researchers continue to collect infection data and will report findings moving forward, including hygienists in future reports in conjunction with the American Dental Hygienists Association.
Geisinger said, looking ahead, patients should feel safe visiting the dentist and should not put off treating their oral health as regular and planned.
“Because of these findings and because we have no known reports of transmission of COVID-19 during the provision of dental care, we feel that resuming dental visits is important,” Geisinger said. “Treatment and prevention of dental diseases, including cavities and gum disease, improves systemic health, and emerging evidence suggests that gum disease may be linked to more severe COVID-19 symptoms. We know that dental care is essential to overall wellness, and this study allows us to feel confident that the dentist’s office is a safe place for patients and for the dental team.”
This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.