COVID-19 Infection Rates of Dentists Remain Lower Than Other Health Professionals

CHICAGO, May 24, 2021—More than a year after COVID-19 appeared in the U.S., dentists continue to have a lower infection rate than other front-line health professionals, such as nurses and physicians, according to a study published online ahead of the June print issue in The Journal of the American Dental Association. The study, “COVID19 among Dentists in the U.S. and Associated Infection Control: a six-month longitudinal study,” is based on data collected June 9 - Nov. 13, 2020.  

According to the study, based on the number of dentists with confirmed or probable COVID-19 infections over more than six months, the cumulative infection rate for U.S. dentists is 2.6%. The monthly incidence rate varied, ranging from 0.2% to 1.1% per month. By comparison, in June 2020, the cumulative COVID-19 prevalence rate for other U.S. health professionals ranged from 3.3% (Chicago-based hospital physicians) to 35.3% (U.S. 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 American Dental Association (ADA) Science and Research Institute Chief Executive Officer Marcelo Araujo, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., the senior author of the report. 

Dr. Araujo added, “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.” 

In addition to Dr. Araujo, other authors of the report include researchers from the ADA Science and Research Institute and Health Policy Institute based in Chicago, as well as Maria L Geisinger, D.D.S., M.S. with University of Alabama at Birmingham in Birmingham, Ala., and Effie Ioannidou, D.D.S., M.D.S., with the University of Connecticut in Farmington, Conn., and a member of the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.

This study is a continuation of the first large-scale report of incidence rates of COVID-19 among dentists in the U.S published in October 2020.  The present six-month longitudinal study 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; and
  • Assess the level of engagement in specific infection control practices among dentists over a six-month period of time.

 The results of this present study, as well as 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 health care professionals.

“This study reinforces that the dental care sector is up and running safely,” said Chief Economist and Vice President of the ADA Health Policy Institute Marko Vujicic, Ph.D. “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 CDC recommendations, and levels of protection against COVID-19 provided by different levels of PPE use and infection control procedures.

For more information on COVID-19 and dental visits, visit MouthHealthy.org.

Editor’s Note: Reporters are invited to follow the ADA on Twitter @AmerDentalAssn

 

 

About the ADA

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 163,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit ADA.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website MouthHealthy.org