Common dental tools can cut COVID-19 threat in offices, researchers find

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities found that tools dentists commonly use to remove patients' saliva after rinsing were very successful at reducing aerosol spread, a potential COVID-19 threat, the university said Nov. 8.

The researchers used 3D holographic imaging to examine the effectiveness of a saliva ejector, a high-volume evacuator and an extraoral local extractor, the last tool described by the university as "a vacuum-esque mechanism made by an industry collaborator of the university’s Center for Filtration Research."

The tools were used during ultrasonic scaling.

They found that the high-volume evacuator and extraoral local extractor were most effective, reducing the amount of aerosols by 96 and 88 percent, respectively. They also found that combining the use of more than one device did not lead to better outcomes.

Documented cases of COVID-19 transmission in dental offices are near nonexistent, and the University of Minnesota has had over 100,000 appointments since March 2020 without transmission to or from the patients, according to the university.

But the researchers hope that their findings can guide dental professionals on what strategies they can use to keep COVID-19 from spreading in their offices, the university stated.

The university said the study is one of the first to use advanced engineering imaging techniques to map out aerosol spread in dental offices.

The results were published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

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