Survey: As dentists reopened in late spring, very few got Covid-19

Rates of Covid-19 among dentists were low in the late spring as dental practices reopened and patients returned, a report published by the American Dental Association suggests.

Researchers conducted a nationwide survey June 8 with responses from more than 2,000 dentists from across the country. Just 0.9 percent, they found, had either confirmed or probable cases of Covid-19, according to NBC News.

Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, it was widely believed that dentists would be at high risk of contracting Covid-19, as their work puts them in very close contact with patients and many of their procedures, which involve water and air spray, could generate virus-laden aerosol particles.

The survey also found that virtually all of the dentists — 99.7 percent — were using what was referred to as “enhanced infection control procedures.” They included screening protocols for patients and disinfection practices.

Nearly all dentists reported some use of personal protective equipment, but only 73 percent of dentists reported wearing protective equipment in accordance with national guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That required the use of surgical masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection during procedures not expected to produce aerosols, as well as the use of N95 respirators for aerosol-generating procedures.

The lead author of the study, Cameron Estrich, a health data analyst at the American Dental Association, or ADA, said she was surprised by two things: the low rate of infection and the extremely high adoption of infection control measures.

“Pretty much all of the dentists that we surveyed had really stepped up their infection control and prevention procedures,” she said. “They had shut down their practices for a few months to get these all in place.”