Dental safety research spurred on by challenges of COVID-19 pandemic

7 April 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for dental professionals the world over, in many cases curtailing or cancelling patient treatment altogether.  

Spurred on by these challenges, which saw dentists labelled as among the professionals facing the greatest coronavirus risk, research conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina, led by a dentist, Professor Walter Renne, has evaluated how devices work in preventing saliva escaping into the air during dental procedures. 

The innovative research has concentrated on, Prof. Renne, quoted in an article on Mirage News, had this to say about why they undertook this research. 

“In the dental space, as we work on our patients, oftentimes we generate aerosols, whether you’re running a handpiece, such as the dental drill, or if you’re using special ultrasonic scalers for cleaning teeth, nearly everything that we do generates this plume of microscopic particles that are dispersed out into the air,” Renne said. 

“In light of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections that spread via aerosol droplets, we were concerned about ways to mitigate that to keep those aerosols from escaping the patient’s mouth during routine dental procedures.” 

Noting that how saliva disperses into during patient treatment is an under researched area, Prof. Renne and his team determined the types of devices available in the market and how effectively they mitigated aerosol dispersal although the study did not attempt to simulate real world situations. 

The aim of this exploratory study is to provide “a foundation for a more scientifically sound study they hoped would finally give fellow dentists data to show what works and what doesn’t” with the team finding that “dry-field isolation methods … along with high-volume evacuators to suction saliva … [are] able to reduce dramatically the amount of spit in the air and on the dentist’s face shield.” 

For more on this research, go to “Pandemic inspires dental safety research and innovation at MUSC”