Despite our best efforts to maintain social distance, there exist certain instances where maintaining physical distance to properly perform a service is simply not possible. One notable example of this necessary evil is our bi-annual trip to the Dentist. Despite the advances in robotic surgery, modern Dentistry still requires a caregiver to be in extremely close physical proximity to the patient. As Coronavirus can be transmitted by aerosolized water droplets originating from sneezing, coughing, and talking, it’s the force and volume of projected particles that makes them a danger at a varying distance.
While many of those activities aren’t, or at least shouldn’t be taking place in the exam chair, what they all have in common is the act of exhaling. Coronavirus transmission research is making new discoveries every day, however it’s a logical assumption that when you remove the distance and expelling force, such as a dental practitioner performing a routine cleaning, even a shallow breath can still become harmful to a caregiver due to the vast reduction in proximity…and that’s not even considering the offices with individual exam rooms versus open floor plans. Furthermore, many dental procedures require the patient to keep their mouth continually open for basic respiration, versus the finite act of sneezing, coughing, and talking, thus making procedures performed within a Dentist’s office simmering, but no less potential danger. With a layered contamination control approach that includes caregivers don masks and face shields to help prevent direct airborne transmission, airborne droplets as small as .5 micron are suspended in the air long after the patient has left, which can potentially be inhaled not just by the caregiver, but by the next patient who comes in! It’s these factors that make the removal of airborne, and potentially pathogen-laden particles from the air a critical step in safely performing services and procedures where maintaining distance is not an option.