About this Research Topic
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concern among oral healthcare providers worldwide about the delivery of dental care. Oral health is essential to overall health and providers’ concern over the safe delivery of care has the potential to adversely affect community oral health.
COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is a respiratory disease transmitted by droplets and aerosols from an infected person who may or may not be symptomatic and the highest period of infectivity may be during the two days prior to the onset of symptoms. Oral healthcare providers routinely perform procedures that are not only in close contact with patients but also generate aerosols, thus exposing these personnel and potentially other patients to the virus. US Department of Labor data indicates that oral healthcare providers are at great risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 virus, particularly dental hygienists. These personnel are at greater risk than respiratory therapists, and even greater than dental assistants, or dentists.
Together, these issues have raised enormous concerns for the practice of dentistry. Various governmental agencies and professional associations have tried to address them through requirements and recommendations for infection control in oral healthcare settings. The requirements/recommendations, from prescreening patients for symptoms and exposure to the virus to elaborate personnel protective equipment (PPE) protocols, is prone to misinterpretation and the adoption and implementation of these protocols are uneven. Additionally, many providers may not be the business or practice owner, and therefore, have limited ability to determine the protocols employed in the practice setting or the PPE available to them. The new protocols and working conditions, including unanticipated hazards from extended wearing of PPE, may increase the dental workforce fear or anxiety in practicing dentistry, particularly for dental hygienists.
This Research Topic aims to understand the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus to oral healthcare providers and to patients receiving dental care and disseminating best practices for implementation of infection control protocols are urgently needed to face the current and future public health emergencies.
This Research Topic is a platform to assess the impact of COVID-19 on dental practice to better understand transmission patterns, workforce and economic consequences. We are particularly interested in research assessing the impact on dental hygienists and their patients.
Areas to be addressed include, but are not limited to:
- What is the impact of COVID-19 on the oral healthcare system and workforce?
- Are dental hygienists at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to working conditions compared to other workforce positions and other healthcare workers?
- Are patients attending dental practices at increased risk for COVID-19?
- Are patients concerned about the risk of COVID-19 when attending dental practices? What is the economic impact of this fear or concern if it exists?
- Are there unknown hazards that may be present from PPE used to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission?
- Based on an understanding of the risk of COVID-19 transmission, what are best practices to minimize transmission to protect the dental workforce and their patients?
Keywords: dental hygienists, dentists, dental public health, infectious diseases, COVID-19
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.