DENTISTS continue to have a lower COVID infection rate than other front-line health professionals such as nurses and physicians.
This is the conclusion of a study published online ahead of the June print issue in the Journal of the American Dental Association.
The study, “COVID-19 among Dentists in the U.S. and Associated Infection Control: a six-month longitudinal study”, is based on data collected from June 9 to Nov. 13, 2020.
Based on the number of dentists with confirmed or probable COVID-19 infections over more than six months, the cumulative infection rate for U.S. dentists is 2.6 percent, the study shows.
The monthly incidence rate varied, ranging from 0.2 percent to 1.1 percent per month.
By comparison, in June 2020, the cumulative COVID-19 prevalence rate for other U.S. health professionals ranged from 3.3 percent (Chicago-based hospital physicians) to 35.3 percent (US. based emergency medicine services).
“We’re pleased to see that dentists have demonstrated continued low monthly incidence of disease despite several regional and national COVID-19 rate spikes during the study period,” said Dr. Marcelo Araujo, the senior author of the report.
“This study shows high rates of pre-appointment screening of patients and appropriate infection control measures throughout the study period, demonstrating that adhering to very strict protocols for enhanced infection control helps protect their patients, their dental team and themselves,” said Dr. Araujo, Science and Research Institute Chief Executive Officer of the American Dental Association (ADA).
The not-for-profit ADA is America’s largest dental association, representing more than 163,000 dentist members.
Other authors of the report include researchers from the ADA Science and Research Institute and Health Policy Institute based in Chicago, as well as Dr. Maria L Geisinger of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Dr. Effie Ioannidou of the University of Connecticut in Farmington and a member of the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.
The six-month study was designed to determine the cumulative prevalence rate of COVID-19 among dentists; calculate the monthly incidence rate for the same population over the course of the study; and assess the level of engagement in specific infection control practices among dentists over a six-month period of time.
The results show that prevalence and incidence rates among dentists continue to be very low when compared to the population as a whole and to other health care professionals.
The findings are similar to the first large-scale report of incidence rates of COVID-19 among dentists in the U.S published in October 2020.
The present study “reinforces that the dental care sector is up and running safely,” said Dr. Marko Vujicic, Chief Economist and Vice President of the ADA Health Policy Institute.
“Nowhere is this proof point more evident than by the fact that more than 90 percent of patients surveyed indicate they have already visited the dentist or soon will.”
The study authors plan future research projects on the barriers and facilitators to wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) according to the recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The planned study will also look at levels of protection against COVID-19 provided by different levels of PPE use and infection control procedures.