Study Finds Dental Procedures Do Not Increase COVID-19 Risk

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Woman at the dentist
Roman Zaiets /

For those who hate going to the dentist, we have a rare bit of good news: You probably don’t need to worry about getting COVID-19 the next time you get those choppers cleaned.

Earlier in the pandemic, some feared that the coronavirus — which spreads primarily through respiratory droplets, or aerosols — might be transmitted through saliva during dental care. Dental procedures often produce a lot of aerosols.

However, researchers at The Ohio State University who collected samples from personnel, equipment and other surfaces reached by aerosols during dental procedures have concluded that such fears are overblown. Their findings were recently published in the Journal of Dental Research.

They found that even when low levels of the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, were found in the saliva of asymptomatic patients, aerosols generated during the patients’ dental procedures did not show signs of coronavirus. That may be because the watery solution from irrigation tools, not saliva, is responsible for much of the spatter that comes from patients’ mouths.

In a press release, lead author Purnima Kumar, professor of periodontology at Ohio State, says:

“Getting your teeth cleaned does not increase your risk for COVID-19 infection any more than drinking a glass of water from the dentist’s office does.”

In a separate study, researchers found the COVID-19 infection prevalence rate among U.S. dentists was 2.6% as of last November. That is lower than the infection rate of nurses and physicians, researchers from the American Dental Association Science & Research Institute and Health Policy Institute found.

For perspective, a May 2020 survey of U.S. front-line health care workers such as physicians and nurses found their reported COVID-19 prevalence rate to be 29%.

If you are planning to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, read “7 Things to Avoid After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine.”

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