In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association released COVID-19 infection control interim guidance for US dentists, advising the use of optimal personal protection equipment during aerosol-generating procedures. The aim of this longitudinal study was to determine the cumulative prevalence and incidence rates of COVID-19 among dentists and to assess their level of engagement in specific infection control practices.
US dentists were invited to participate in a monthly web-based survey from June through November 2020. Approximately one-third of initial respondents (n = 785) participated in all 6 surveys, and they were asked about COVID-19 testing received, symptoms experienced, and infection prevention procedures followed in their primary practice.
Over a 6-month period, the cumulative COVID-19 infection prevalence rate was 2.6%, representing 57 dentists who ever received a diagnosis of COVID-19. The incidence rates ranged from 0.2% through 1.1% each month. The proportion of dentists tested for COVID-19 increased over time, as did the rate of dentists performing aerosol-generating procedures. Enhanced infection prevention and control strategies in the dental practice were reported by nearly every participant monthly, and rates of personal protection equipment optimization, such as changing masks after each patient, dropped over time.
US dentists continue to show a high level of adherence to enhanced infection control procedures in response to the ongoing pandemic, resulting in low rates of cumulative prevalence of COVID-19. Dentists are showing adherence to a strict protocol for enhanced infection control, which should help protect their patients, their dental team members, and themselves.
COVID-19 infections among practicing dentists will likely remain low if dentists continue to adhere to guidance.