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Post-Pandemic Dental Practice: COVID-19, Oral Health & Infection Control

Course Number: 665

COVID-19 Impact on Dental Practice Infection Control

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust infection control practices into the forefront and has highlighted the need for review of safety protocols and practices to ensure optimal working environments for patients and healthcare workers alike. In dentistry, the exposure of dental healthcare professionals and patients to both airborne and bloodborne pathogens was identified as a potential risk from early periods in the pandemic and enhanced infection control practices were sought to mitigate risks of exposure and infection during the provision of dental care.23-26 After the initial emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in China in 2019, many governmental bodies mandated service limitations and/or shut-downs for healthcare workers, including those providing dental care.16,17,27 Further, both pharmaceutical and nonpharmaceutical measures were put into place to limit disease transmission and severity, including quarantine, physical distancing, hygiene measures and vaccination protocols.28 Within the dental setting, national recommendations for dental healthcare professionals included enhancements to infection control practices like enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE), surface decontamination, post-appointment surveillance, and patient assessment and triage.29

Due to the droplet and airborne transmission risk of SARS-CoV-2, enhanced infection control practices were recommended as interim protocols, many of which have now become standard practice in many dental offices. 9,30,31 Studies have shown that COVID-19 did result in statistically significant differences in the use of protective barriers such as hair covers and eye protection/face shields and disinfection practices.32 Furthermore, despite concerns early in the pandemic, data indicate that with the use of such enhanced infection control practices, delivery of dentistry resulted in very low transmission rates.33-34These findings further highlight the expertise of dental healthcare professionals in infection control practices and the willingness of dental healthcare professionals to adapt to improve safety for their patients and colleagues.