This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:

Steinberg N., Allison P. and Levin L. Infection Prevention Strategies Concordance in Canadian Dental Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic. International Dental Journal (2022). doi: 10.1016/j.identj.2022.07.005.

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

A CITF-funded study, published in the International Dental Journal and led by Dr. Paul Allison (McGill University), reports significant discrepancies in COVID-19-related infection prevention and control (IPC) strategies across Canadian dental schools. The study specifically looks at the alignment between the IPC strategies from the perspectives of students and existing dental school IPC guidelines.

Key findings:

  • A total of 16 different IPC measures were identified at dental schools across Canada. These include, for example, the use of plexiglass barriers in shared areas, masking, symptom screening, air filtration or purification systems, or contact tracing.
  • Of these guidelines, the authors identified 11 as being consistent across all dental schools (i.e., either adopted or not adopted in the majority of schools). With respect to the other 5, there were substantial differences in whether the schools chose to adopt the guidelines.
  • Alignment between the views of dental school students and staff and official IPC guidelines varied widely depending on the IPC strategy, ranging from 42.9% to 97.2% agreement with the school’s IPC strategy on average.
  • The highest level of agreement between dental school students and staff with recommended IPC strategies was achieved for “screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms before appointment” (with an average agreement of 97.2%).
  • The lowest level of agreement was for “disinfecting of surfaces frequently touched by patients” (with an average agreement of 42.9%).
  • Even within a given dental school, the average level of agreement with the IPC guidelines among staff and students ranged from 53% in one school to 80% in another.

The authors conclude that Canadian dental schools could benefit from a unified standard IPC protocol. Coordination between the different levels of regulatory bodies and communication with dental students and staff is essential to facilitate compliance and monitoring of IPC measures.

This study is partly derived from a cohort study involving 600 dental school students and staff from the 10 Canadian dental schools. Information about the IPC protocols in place in dental schools from an end-user perspective was obtained from a questionnaire distributed to all participants in April and May 2021. In Canada, dental school guidelines regarding IPC protocols arise from provincial health professional licensing bodies, provincial government public health guidelines, and university guidelines. This multiplicity of sources can lead to potentially confusing or conflicting directives amongst students and staff.  In the study, information on each dental school guidelines was therefore collected separately using questionnaires distributed to clinical directors and IPC officers in July 2021.