Due to the nature of dentistry, dental care settings have the potential to be high-risk environments for the spread of COVID-19. A study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, and led by CITF-supported investigator Dr. Sreenath Madathil from McGill University, found that infection was lower among dentists (1084 per 100,000) than within the general Canadian population (1864 per 100,000).
The authors followed a cohort of 644 dentists from across Canada (every province except New Brunswick) from July 2020 to February 2021. Participants completed an online COVID-19 risk assessment questionnaire every four weeks. A sub-study of 224 participants was asked to provide saliva samples every four weeks to test for COVID-19 infection.
- Six participants reported a COVID-19 infection during the study period, giving an incidence rate of 5.10 per 100,000 person-days.
- The incidence proportion was estimated to be lower among dentists (1084 per 100,000) than within the general Canadian population (1864 per 100,000) during the same period.
- The average age of participants was ~47 years old, with the majority of participants being female (56.4%) and general dental practitioners (90.8%).
The findings should reassure dental professionals, as well as their patients, who may have worried that seeking dental care could expose them to undue risk of COVID-19. The authors suggest that the low infection rates among dental professionals may be due to:
- Pre-procedure screening of patients;
- Adherence to rigorous infection prevention and control protocols;
- Public health measures (physical distancing, the use of personal protective equipment); and
- Cautionary behaviors dentists adopted outside their work place.
Madathil S, Siqueira WL, Marin LM, Sanaulla FB, Faraj N, Quiñonez CR, et al. The incidence of COVID-19 among dentists practicing in the community in Canada: A prospective cohort study over a six-month period. The Journal of the American Dental Association. J Am Dent Assoc; 2021; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adaj.2021.10.006