Aerosol Exposure at the Dental Office: What Are the Risks?

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These days, virtually every activity outside the home carries some amount of risk, however small it may be. Even essential activities, like going to the doctor or the dentist, are not immune from the threat of COVID-19. This has led some patients to wonder if they should forgo the treatments they need.


In fact, forgoing necessary treatments usually poses a much greater threat than COVID-19 does. Unless you are at an extremely high risk of serious COVID-19 complications, there is no need to alter your existing treatment plan or otherwise refrain from visiting the doctor or dentist as needed. Thanks in large part to extraordinary measures taken by the medical and dental communities, patients need not worry about seeking the treatments they need.


While the risk of aerosol transmission is now present in most activities, dental offices have taken the necessary precautions, as well as recommendations from the CDC and ADA, to reduce the patients’ risk.  The dental community has an obligation to keep patients safe, while receiving much needed care.


Let’s take a look at the extensive precautions that dental practitioners are taking in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19:


  • Having patients rinse their mouths before all treatments that involve power-driven instruments, which generate droplets and aerosol.
  • Double masking and using face shields.
  • Screening all patients prior to office visits, including temperature checks.
  • Ramping up cleaning procedures in operating rooms and waiting areas.
  • Limiting the number of personnel present in all procedures.


In addition to maintaining proper PPE and safety procedures, dental professionals can further ensure the safety of their patients by signing up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available. Dentists, dental teams, and students are part of the first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations as per CDC recommendations.


Dental health is important not only to your teeth and mouth, but also to the rest of your body. Just like the risk of COVID-19 wouldn’t stop you from going to the grocery store to get the food you need, it also shouldn’t stop you from going to the dentist to get the care you need. It is up to every individual to manage the risks associated with essential activities, and to take all basic precautions such as wearing a mask and washing hands often. However, patients can rest assured that the dental community is doing its part to maintain a safe and healthy environment.


For more guidance on how to practice dentistry safely during the pandemic, check out this excellent guide from the California Dental Association. For more guidance on being safe as a patient, view this helpful article from the CDC.