More than a year after COVID-19 appeared in the United States, dentists continue to have a lower infection rate than other frontline health professionals, such as nurses and physicians, according to an ADA-led six-month longitudinal study based on data collected between June 9 and November 13, 2020.
The cumulative infection rate for dentists in the United States is 2.6%, based on the number of dentists with confirmed or probable COVID-19 infections over more than six months. Monthly incidence rates varied from 0.2% to 1.1% per month. By comparison, in June 2020, the cumulative prevalence rate for other US health professionals ranged from 3.3% for Chicago-based hospital physicians to 35.3% for US-based emergency medicine services.
“We’re pleased to see that dentists have demonstrated continued low monthly incidence of disease despite several regional and national COVID-19 rate spikes during the study period,” said senior author and ADA Science and Research Institute CEO Marcelo Araujo, DDS, MS, PhD.
“This study shows high rates of pre-appointment screening of patients and appropriate infection control measures throughout the study period, demonstrating that adhering to very strict protocols for enhanced infection control helps protect their patients, their dental team, and themselves,” Araujo said.
The study is a continuation of the first large-scale report of incidence rates of COVID-19 among dentists in the United States published in October 2020, the ADA said. The recent story aimed to:
- Determine the cumulative prevalence rate of COVID-19 among dentists
- Calculate the monthly incidence rate for the same population over the course of the study
- Assess the level of engagement in specific infection control practices among dentists over a six-month period
The results of this study and the earlier study show that prevalence and incidence rates among dentists continue to be very low when compared to the population as a whole and to other healthcare professionals, the ADA said.
“This study reinforces that the dental care sector is up and running safely,” said Marko Vujicic, PhD, chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute. “Nowhere is this proof point more evident than by the fact that more than 90% of patients surveyed indicate they have already visited the dentist or soon will.”
The authors plan future research projects on the barriers and facilitators to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and levels of protection against COVID-19 provided by different levels of PPE use and infection control procedures.