How Dental Clinics Can Protect Against COVID-19

Dental clinics may be high-risk places for COVID-19 infection. During a dental operation or surgery, patients must remove their mask, and airborne particles and aerosols post a risk of contamination and infection. This article covers masks and air purifiers as possible means of reducing virus transmission for dentists and dental clinic workers.


Dentist office COVID-19


The CDC released guidance for dental practices and settings recently. They recommending that dentists screen patient intensively and wear face masks, but what else can dental clinics do to protect their workers and their patients? Let’s break this down into 2 parts: masks and air purifiers.


Using Masks as Protection in Dental Clinics

The CDC recommends surgical masks or cloth face coverings be worn at all times by dental health-care personnel. With surgical masks being preferred.

CDC recommends dental clinics wear surgical mask or face mask at all times

Data shows that surgical masks and N95 masks can both filter out virus-sized particles. What’s more, DIY masks can too. Thus, ensuring that staff and visitors wear masks throughout the day is an effective way of reducing the chance of virus transmission.

Homemade masks and surgical masks can capture coronavirus, and are useful for dental clinics


Using Air Purifiers to Filter COVID-19 In Dental Rooms

But there’s a problem. Dental patients often have to remove their mask for a dental operation or surgery. In those cases, using an air purifier may be another way to help reduce the spread of any viruses.

One group of researchers from North Carolina studied the distance the influenza virus could spread in a hospital environment. They measured how far influenza virus particles could spread from 94 people in the emergency department and inpatient care unit of a hospital. This environment is fairly similar to a dental clinic, where the patient is lying down in a chair.

Measuring the distance influenza virus spreads in a hospital in care unit


The scientists found lots of virus particles 1 foot and 3 feet away from the patient. But at a distance of 6ft (1.8m), there were a lot fewer virus particles in the air.

influenza virus spreads up to 6ft in hospital and dental clinic environments


This data suggests (perhaps not surprisingly) that the area directly around the patient is the most likely to contain the virus. That means it is the most critical to capture and purify the air directly around the patient. Air purifiers that use HEPA filters are able to filter out viruses including the COVID-19 coronavirus.


Air Purifiers Suitable for use in Dental Clinics

The next step will be to modify the air purifier to suit the dental clinic situation. The good news is, dentists from across the world have been contacting Smart Air to tell us how they’ve been modifying their air purifiers to meet the needs of their dental practice. One dentist from the UK modified the Smart Air Blast Mini to attach a pipe to the inlet of the Blast Mini.

Dentist in UK modifying Blast Mini air purifier for dental clinic

They modified the Blast Mini using a vacuum cleaner tube with a funnel on the end. This funnel can then be used to point directly at the patient.

Modifying air purifier with funnel to point at dental patient

This tube sucks away air from near the patient’s head and sends it through a HEPA filter to capture virus particles. This setup should be able to meaningfully reduce the amount of virus particles in the air.

Bottom Line: Protecting Dental Clinics From COVID-19 Coronavirus

The CDC recommends masks be warn at all times by workers and patients in dental clinics. For situations where patients must remove their mask for dental surgery, air purifiers with a suction funnel may help filter out any viruses.

Of course, the air directly around the patient is not the only concern. What’s more, dental operations with spraying and drilling might make particles travel farther, so we need studies on dentist offices in particular to be more certain. To deal with these situations, it is wise to purify and ventilate the air in the entire office.

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