The outbreak of Covid-19 has affected many aspects of our lives over the past year. Our health and wellbeing have been thrust to the forefront as a result, with the majority of the population taking means to protect themselves and their loved ones from illness, whether that be through shielding/isolating, or simply implementing better hygienic practices. However, with only urgent dental care clinics open during the first lockdown, many people may have suffered with oral health issues until general dental practices opened once more. Even then, many people may still have possessed fears over returning to their dentist, due to the virus.
With restrictions easing, ensuring the safety of patients and colleagues remains paramount. By continuing to minimise instances where the virus (and other pathogenic microorganisms) can be transmitted, you are ensuring that your patients receive the upmost care and consideration, whilst maintaining high standards of service.
How dental professionals protect themselves
Dental professionals are in direct contact with many things that can transmit the virus, such as oral fluids, the use of aerosols and contaminated dental equipment. However, a recent American study[i] has shown that the prevalence and positivity rates of Covid-19 were low among practising dentists. The frequency of Covid-19, amongst those in the study, was 0.9 per cent. 99.7 per cent of dental practices used enhanced PPE and infection control practices.[ii] This indicates the sufficiency of advanced infection control measures within dental settings to protect the team, no doubt bolstered by wider restrictions set in place to reduce the transmission of the virus at its peak.
Even with restrictions easing, continuing to ensure that patients feel safe is just as vital; a recent survey[iii] demonstrated that while 48 per cent of respondents held no concerns over returning to a dental practice, 46 per cent said they would wait several months before returning, due to concerns over the virus. The remainder claimed they would avoid the dentist completely, until the situation had abated. By avoiding the dentist, the oral health of the population is at risk. Thus, assuaging the fears of the public is imperative.
How can patients help?
With dental personnel already enforcing methods in preventing viral transmission, continuing to encourage patients to play their part is important. 80 per cent of respondents in the aforementioned survey said they would find queueing and waiting systems reassuring; by asking patients to participate, distance will be maintained between those in the waiting room. Depending on the size of the practice, some patients may have to wait outside until their appointment time, however, this only decreases the time they might spend around staff and other patients. You are protecting them and you may encourage those who are sceptical to return to the clinic.
You might also consider asking patients to continue bringing a facemask to their appointment, to wear whilst they wait and may be around others. Keeping hand sanitising stations will encourage effective hand hygiene, too. However, with restrictions easing, some patients may unwittingly forego essential habits designed to keep themselves, and others, safe. Wearing a mask and sanitising hands are the simplest ways; other easy ways, include avoiding touching the mouth and eye areas, and washing hands for at least twenty seconds. By continuing to gently educate your patients on the stress-free ways to keep clean and safe, you are once again highlighting that your number one priority is the welfare of your patients and staff, as well as the standards of service you are offering.
Total peace of mind
Patients can help to diminish the spread of the virus before they even enter the dental practice, too; something as simple as using a clinically proven mouthwash is a step in the right direction. A recent study[iv] has shown that using ‘Perio plus’ mouthwash can reduce possible transmission of the virus, due its ability to lower the viral load within the mouth. ‘Perio plus’ mouthwash also combines the natural extract of bitter oranges with the effective Citrox formula, to ensure protection against caries and decay.
Continuing to prioritise your patients’ safety gives them the peace of mind during uncertain times, which ensures that their oral health remains happy and healthy.
For more information visit www.perioplus.com/uk
[i] Cameron G. Estrich, MPH, PhD; Matthew Mikkelsen, MA; Rachel Morrissey, MA; Maria L. Geisinger, DDS, MS; Effie Ioannidou, DDS, MDS; Marko Vujicic, PhD; Marcelo W.B. Araujo, DDS, MS, PhD. Estimating COVID-19 prevalence and infection control practices among US dentists. The Journal of the American Dental Association. November 2020. https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(20)30658-9/fulltext.
[ii] Estimating COVID-19 prevalence and infection control practices among US dentists. The Journal of the American Dental Association. November 2020. https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(20)30658-9/fulltext.
[iii] COVID-19 and dentistry – Survey of the UK public for the General Dental Council. November 2020. https://www.gdc-uk.org/docs/default-source/research/covid-19-and-dentistry-survey-of-the-uk-public-report0e677a96-bdc1-4447-a20e-1d402b7dbb4b.pdf?sfvrsn=8f04c781_12.
[iv] Carrouel F, Valette M, Gadea E, Esparcieux A, Illes G, Langlois ME, Perrier H, Dussart C, Tramini P, Ribaud M, Bouscambert-Duchamp M, Bourgeois D. Use of an antiviral mouthwash as a barrier measure in the sars-cov-2 transmission in adults with asymptomatic to mild COVID-19: a multicentre, randomized, double-blind controlled trial. Clinical Microbiology and Infection. May 2012. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmi.2021.05.028