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Much as HIV and fears about spread of AIDS in the dental office improved infection control practices against blood-borne pathogens, SARS-CoV-2 has spurred transformative changes against airborne pathogens. Work on developing an at-home saliva-based HIV test paved the way for accelerated development of the saliva-based rapid SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic test. Oral manifestations of COVID-19 such as hemorrhagic and aphthous-like ulcerations with necrosis are being recognized. As we are just at the beginning of our human interaction with coronavirus diseases, a sustained investment in antiviral research will help better prepare us for more rapid solutions to future pandemics, which are inevitable.
We need better mobilization of scientific collaboration globally to sustain our work in prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and future pandemics sure to come. The COVID-19 pandemic has further illustrated the fundamental place of dentistry in the health system as an essential healthcare service, the role of which is to ensure eradication of disease and management of pain in the maxillofacial structures.
Not since the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) pandemic began have we had a transformative experience in dentistry that has made us deeply reexamine our practices and come to terms with a new reality of how dentists care for their patients’ health. What is different now compared with 1985 is the more rapid pace of research and broad global public emphasis on conquering the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and limiting its spread, which has resulted in damage to both our health and finances. Both are pandemics to be reckoned with. HIV introduced the enduring era of blood-borne pathogens and now SARS-CoV-2 has brought us into the era of respiratory pathogens. Though HIV targets lymphocytes and immune function and SARS-CoV-2 targets the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) widely expressed receptor cells and the renin-angiotensin system, lessons from our experience with HIV can inform aspects of our response to the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2.