Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health care professionals have been challenged to provide appropriate preventive and therapeutic measures while using precautions to minimize disease transmission. The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19 among United States (US) dental hygienists, describe infection prevention and control procedures and any associated trends in mental health.
Registered dental hygienists (RDHs) licensed in the US were invited to participate in a 30-question web-based survey. COVID-19 infection items included probable and confirmed results, COVID-19 related symptoms experienced in the last month, and level of concern about COVID-19 transmission to patients and themselves. The validated Patient Health Questionnaire 4 screened respondents for depression or anxiety. Personal protective equipment (PPE) use when treating patients was assessed. The research protocol and survey were approved by the American Dental Association IRB and registered at clinicaltrials.gov (NCT04542915). Kruskal-Wallis and X2 tests were used to test for associations between PPE use, PPE supply, mental health symptoms, and concern about COVID-19 transmission.
As of October 8, 2020, a total of 4,776 dental hygienists from all 50 states and Puerto Rico participated in the study. Respondents reported elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression. Of the respondents, 3.1% (n=149) had ever tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19. The majority of respondents (99.1%; n=3,328) who practiced dental hygiene reported their primary dental practice had enhanced infection prevention or control efforts in response to the pandemic. PPE use was significantly associated with years of experience as a dental hygienist, level of concern about COVID-19, and level of PPE supplies available (p-values<0.01), but not type of dental practice (p-value 0.1).
As of October 2020, the estimated prevalence rate of dental hygienists in the US having had COVID-19 was low. There is a need for further support for dental hygienists' use of PPE and mental health.