Dental occupations are among the highest risk for exposure to COVID-19, according to an analysis from Visual Capitalist. Dental hygienists measure a risk score of 99.7 and dentists 92.1, with 100 representing the highest possible risk, based on contact with others, physical proximity, and exposure to disease. Dental assistants also topped the list with a risk score of 92.5.
According to the findings compiled from Occupational Information Network data, work from home options are available to just 29% of Americans while the remainder are either out of work or have continued working but at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Dental hygienists know the risks all too well. “We wear two masks when we’re working. One of them is an N95, and then I wear another mask on top,” said Stacy Bloom, a dental hygienist at Hagen Ranch Dental Center in Boynton Beach.
“I wear glasses, plus I wear a face shield, and I wear a gown, which covers my whole body. I used to take the mask off when I was done working, and I could actually breathe. Now, with COVID, you can’t take your mask off … You pretty much have to suit up every day. It will be really, really nice when we don’t have to wear all this stuff anymore. It does definitely make it more difficult to work.”
Patients are equally as eager for a return to normalcy, but until then they need assurances that safety measures are being taken. In fact, in a poll, 11% of respondents said they would be willing to return to the dentist office as long as they were given assurances by government authorities and/or assurances from the location they are visiting.
Sterilization Change Movement
Given the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission through aerosols, “this should give everyone a heightened sense of responsibility; and an opportunity to be leaders of what we might call a sterilization change movement,” noted a Dentistry IQ article. According to the author, who conducted social media poll, “more than 80% of regular, non-dental people wanted to see the new COVID-19 safety measures put in place at their own dentists' offices.”
“The wow factor has become more important for dentistry than at any other time in memory,” according to the article. “Patients want to see they are safe and that their dentists are taking control of a volatile situation.”
Extraoral Aerosol Evacuation
One way to take control is through use of extraoral aerosol evacuation which has been shown to significantly reduce airborne particulates. In fact, research shows a reduction of particulates by up to 90.8% when compared to an intraorally positioned standard saliva ejector.
Extraoral aerosol evacuators like Cazoo connect directly to standard high-volume evacuator (HVE) lines, allowing dental practices to quickly begin reducing aerosols.