Mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is more than just avoiding an outbreak being traced back to your practice. It’s about keeping your dental employees safe at work. OSHA legally requires you to provide a safe workplace for your employees, and COVID-19 poses a threat.
Dental Professionals: Highest Risk of Contracting COVID-19
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. In this document, OSHA provides a risk pyramid classifying how likely an employee is to get COVID-19 based on their profession.
Dental professionals are at the top of the pyramid; OSHA classifies them as having a very high risk of being exposed to the virus.
Why are dental professionals at risk?
The obvious risk is that dental professionals work in the mouths of patients. This means patients cannot wear masks during procedures. Another risk is that dental professionals must break the recommended social distancing guideline of 6 feet to do their work.
The primary risk factor for dental employees is that many dental procedures create aerosols. Tiny aerosols carry COVID-19 and can infect dental employees.
What procedures pose the highest risk?
OSHA classifies the risk of exposure to COVID-19 according to the type of dental procedure taking place and the patient’s known or suspected health. Aerosol-generating procedures pose the highest risk for dental professionals to contract COVID-19.
Very High Risk
- Performing aerosol-generating procedures on known or suspected COVID-19 positive patients.
- Collecting or handling specimens from known or suspected COVID-19 positive patients.
- Entering a known or suspected COVID-19 patient’s room.
- Performing dental procedures that are not known to generate aerosols on a known or suspected COVID-19 patient.
- Performing aerosol-generating procedures on healthy patients.
- Providing dental care that is not known to generate aerosols to healthy patients.
- Working in busy dental staff areas.
Low Risk (Caution)
- Performing administrative duties away from the public and other staff members.
Aerosol-Generating Procedures: Highest Risk
Dental procedures and tools known to generate aerosols include:
- Ultrasonic and sonic scalers
- Air polishing
- Air-water syringe
- Tooth preparation with air turbine handpiece
- Tooth preparation with air abrasion
- Micro-motor handpieces
Suspected Health of the Patient: Be Cautious
OSHA differentiates suspected COVID-19 patients and healthy patients. But the American Dental Association (ADA) writes, “It should be assumed that all patients may transmit COVID-19, given that individuals who are asymptomatic can still be infectious.”
Check out our blog for OSHA information about what personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear during which dental procedures throughout COVID-19.
OSHA: Train and Retrain
OSHA writes, “Train and retrain workers on how to follow established protocols.” OSHA training is legally required, but OSHA highlights the importance of training to protect employees from COVID-19.
Here at Smart Training, we know that training employees can be time-consuming, costly, and frustrating. That is why we make it as easy as possible for you. Check out our free Dental Professional Training Package. Included in it is our COVID-19 training module designed specifically for dental professionals, and it will be updated to reflect changes in strategies from the CDC and ADA.
Let Smart Training handle your training, so you can get back to helping patients.