In order to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 you need to wear a mask and maintain an appropriate separation from other people. Neither of those measures are available in the dentist’s office. Your mouth is wide open and the doctor is right there in your face. However, a new study by the University of Waterloo showed that air filtration helps.
It is so difficult to control COVID-19 transmission during dental appointments that the World Health Organization recommended delaying non-essential oral health care amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, many dental offices closed temporarily in the midst of the pandemic. However, scientists are looking into ways to keep them working, while also keeping clients and dentists safe. Air purification might be the key.
Air filters and purifiers are readily available and work pretty well. Many people in bigger cities have been using them for years to reduce the impact of air pollution in their living environment. Now scientists went to a Toronto dental clinic so see if purifiers can help during dental appointments and the results are promising. Scientists found that aerosols (airborne particles and droplets) were removed by the purifier at least 6.3 times faster than the average 95 minutes it takes for 0.5 micrometre particles or droplets to return to a background level. This study showed that the best results are achieved when the high-speed purifier is ran from the beginning of a dental operation in a closed room without ventilation.
Air purification is the most effective way to clear out the air in a small area, such as the dentist’s office. It works together with gravity settling, which is why it is important to reduce breeze running through such rooms. In offices that do not have air filtration devices scientists recommend opening windows to promote natural ventilation with fresh air. Between appointments staff should leave the room to allow particles to settle. Chao Tan, lead author of the study, said: “In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, our study’s analysis can assist in developing guidelines for air circulation and filtration, which can significantly reduce the chances of disease transmission”.
Obviously, air is not the only way that SARS-CoV-2 virus is travelling from person to person. Dentists also have to disinfect all their tools and surfaces. The good thing is that dentists always maintain a high level of cleanliness due to a high risk of infection in their workplace.
COVID-19 is not going to stop our lives completely. We have to find ways to keep our lives as normal as possible. We cannot just close all the dentists’ offices – we have to find ways for them to work. And it seems like they should consider investing in high-speed air purification systems.
Source: University of Waterloo