Understanding the risks associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission during oral health care delivery and assessing mitigation strategies for dental offices are critical to improving patient safety and access to oral health care.
The authors invited licensed US dentists practicing primarily in private practice or public health to participate in a web-based survey in June 2020. Dentists from every US state (n = 2,195) answered questions about COVID-19–associated symptoms, SARS-CoV-2 infection, mental and physical health conditions, and infection control procedures used in their primary dental practices.
Most of the dentists (82.2%) were asymptomatic for 1 month before administration of the survey; 16.6% reported being tested for SARS-CoV-2; and 3.7%, 2.7%, and 0% tested positive via respiratory, blood, and salivary samples, respectively. Among those not tested, 0.3% received a probable COVID-19 diagnosis from a physician. In all, 20 of the 2,195 respondents had been infected with SARS-CoV-2; weighted according to age and location to approximate all US dentists, 0.9% (95% confidence interval, 0.5 to 1.5) had confirmed or probable COVID-19. Dentists reported symptoms of depression (8.6%) and anxiety (19.5%). Enhanced infection control procedures were implemented in 99.7% of dentists’ primary practices, most commonly disinfection, COVID-19 screening, social distancing, and wearing face masks. Most practicing dentists (72.8%) used personal protective equipment according to interim guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
COVID-19 prevalence and testing positivity rates were low among practicing US dentists. This indicates that the current infection control recommendations may be sufficient to prevent infection in dental settings.