Study: Dental Practices Effective in Preventing Spread of COVID-19
99.7% of practices have implemented enhanced infection control procedures; Less than 1% of dental professionals report COVID-19 positivity
Chicago, Illinois – October 15, 2020 – The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) announced today that an article published ahead of print in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) supports the efforts periodontists are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their practices.
The article’s authors surveyed licensed, practicing dentists and public health dentists between May 8 and June 12, 2020. In the article, titled “Estimating COVID-19 Prevalence and Infection Control Practices Among US Dentists,” the authors reported that “enhanced infection control procedures were implemented in 99.7% of dentists’ primary practices, most commonly disinfection, COVID-19 screening, social distancing, and face masks.” The study also found that only 0.9% of the surveyed dentists have had a confirmed or probable diagnosis of COVID-19. The authors concluded, “These rates support that use of the CDC’s currently recommended infection prevention and control procedures in dental offices will contribute to the reduced risk of infection during the delivery of dental care.”
This is the first study to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19 among US dentists, who had previously been assumed to be at an increased risk of infection due to their close proximity to patients as well as exposure to procedure-generated aerosols.
According to Dr. Bryan Frantz, president of the AAP, “These findings clearly indicate just how seriously and passionately the dental profession has embraced the importance of ensuring the health of their patients and staff in the face of the pandemic.” This is certainly true of periodontal practices, he said. “While our focus on surgical procedures has always led us to ensure that effective safety barriers are in place for our patients, we have significantly enhanced our safety measures since the onset of COVID-19.”
It is vitally important for patients to realize that it is safe to visit their dental professionals, and especially periodontists, Dr. Frantz said. "A large body of research has supported a connection between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. In addition, emerging evidence suggests that periodontal disease could predispose patients to more severe COVID-19 symptoms. Therefore, maintaining one’s periodontal health is more important than ever." He added, “Many of our member practices are reporting that their patient traffic has never been greater, which means that patients seem to be getting the message about the importance of maintaining healthy teeth and gums during a global pandemic.”