The coronavirus epidemic affected every aspect of life. Schools were closed, workplaces were closed, and businesses had to implement safety protocols. Among all these changes, the biggest impact was in the health sector.
Health institutions have to implement all necessary safety measures to protect both patients and healthcare personnel, as this is where the risk of disease transmission is highest.
COVID-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The virus can be spread from one person to another through respiratory droplets of a sick person. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or even speaks, the droplets can remain suspended in the air and infect anyone who comes into direct contact with or within 2 meters of the patient.
As you can imagine, the risk of contracting COVID-19 increases significantly in settings such as dental clinics that operate with a patient’s open mouth. While dentists are very knowledgeable in controlling the transmission of blood-borne diseases, controlling airborne diseases is somewhat unexplored. Therefore, new measures have been introduced to limit the spread of this epidemic.
Screening Patients Before Appointments
The first thing dental clinics do is call patients before scheduling an appointment. During the phone call, patients are asked about their health, whether they have recently shown signs of a cold or flu-like infection, and whether they have recently traveled abroad. When they enter the clinic, they are informed about the social distance, the necessity of wearing masks and hygiene protocols.
Preparing the Patient to Enter the Clinic
When the patient arrives, they are asked to wear overshoes before entering the clinic. Hand disinfectant is given and fever is measured.
Hygiene and Disinfection Precautions
Patients showing symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to reschedule their appointments, but dentists apply strict measures to maintain hygiene as they know that some SARS-CoV-2 carriers can be completely asymptomatic. These measures include enhanced hand hygiene, regular surface and equipment disinfection, and the wearing of personal protective equipment.
Reducing Oral Aerosols and Droplets
What exacerbates the risk of contamination in dental settings is that regular aerosol use causes these particles to remain suspended in the air for long periods of time. To reduce aerosols and droplets, dental clinics use a larger diameter saliva ejector, attempt to evacuate air regularly, and use rubber drapes to minimize or prevent contamination.
Proper ventilation is paramount, as any droplet can remain suspended in the air for hours. To accurately control the transmission of all airborne diseases, dental clinics use air purifiers with HEPA technology, install powerful fans, disinfect equipment using UV light after each patient, and use antiviral disinfectant sprays. If possible, they can also use negative pressure rooms.