The UK’s dental schools and dental hospitals join forces to find innovative solutions to the complex challenges presented by COVID-19
These fine clouds of water spray are known as aerosol and contain both substantial amounts of water from the drills that dentists use and smaller amounts of patients’ saliva. The risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2 posed by the small amounts of saliva in these aerosols and the precise dilution of the saliva in the clean water used by the drill is yet to be determined.
Aerosols are therefore a problem in primary (high street) dentistry and are being actively managed by leaving long gaps between patients (‘fallow’ times of up to one hour after procedures). The problem is exacerbated in dental education, however, because dental students are taught how to drill in open-plan, multi-chair clinics – magnifying the amount of aerosol potentially produced if all chairs are in action at once. Dental students treat over 400,000 volunteer patients each year but have not been allowed to treat patients since March. This reduction in clinical experience could affect their ability to graduate and enter the workforce to the anticipated timescale.