Aerosols in the Dental Office: Best Practices for Patient and Practitioner Safety
Course Number: 619
Since its first identification in Wuhan, China in November-December 2019, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has been identified as the causative agent for the high consequence infectious disease, COVID-19 that has caused a global pandemic. Similar to a previous coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1), SARS-CoV-2 enters host cells through human cell receptor ACE2 but appears to demonstrate higher binding affinity and SARS-CoV-2 demonstrates a longer latency period, asymptomatic/minimally symptomatic spread, and has a higher reproduction number, indicating a higher level of transmissibility. It has also been established that airborne transmission via respiratory droplets from infected individuals (asymptomatic and symptomatic) are the main mode of person-to-person transmission.
The COVID-19 pandemic offered dental healthcare workers an opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of enhanced infection control protocols to address airborne pathogens, which had not been a focus of dental infection control practices, unlike bloodborne pathogens. Through this experience, the dental profession has learned and adopted some practices that may enhance their safety and that of their patients moving forward.