A new study from researchers at the Ohio State University suggests that patients and providers are not at high risk of catching COVID-19 at the dentist’s office. SARS-CoV-2 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets, so at the beginning of the pandemic, there were fears that the dentist’s chair could be a high-transmission location. Luckily, scientists found that even when low levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were detected in the saliva of asymptomatic patients, the aerosols generated during procedures showed no signs of the coronavirus. The findings are reassuring, but also make sense: Water used to rinse and irrigate the mouth during treatment dilutes saliva – a “thick, viscous” substance – by an estimated 20- to 200-fold, and the research is validated by a 2020 study that reported a less than 1% COVID-19 positivity rate among dentists. Dentistry has long been at the forefront of infection-control practices in health care, and during the pandemic, we’ve added even more precautions like HEPA air filters, extra aerosol suction equipment, KN95 masks, and face shields.
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