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How confident are you with the new infection control protocols in the age of COVID-19?

June 29, 2020
A recent survey shows dental providers know the changes they should make in their practices to reduce viral transmission from COVID-19, but they are much less confident they can make them a reality.
Vicki Cheeseman, Associate Editor

A recent survey of more than 37,000 dental providers by DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement sought to uncover just how comfortable dentists and dental practice managers are about executing changes in their practices brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.1 In particular, results showed participants’ confidence levels are low regarding implementation of new stringent infection control protocols to reduce viral transmission.

Medicaid patients—among the most vulnerable populations—fall under the care off every survey respondent. As dental offices begin to reopen, many providers are seeking alternate practice delivery systems—e.g., teledentistry, triage—to meet the needs of patients and widen access to care. Concurrently they are sifting through the recommended infection control changes designed to reduce viral loads and keep patients and staff members safe.

DentaQuest Partnership President and CEO Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan said:

“We’ve seen data on how dentists are navigating the pandemic, but no one has looked specifically at the oral health safety net. Medicaid dental providers are critical to ensure access to oral health care for millions of adults and children who otherwise wouldn’t have it. Understanding how Medicaid dental providers and the patients they serve have fared is the best way to ensure we can support dentists serving our most vulnerable communities.” 

One insight from the survey revealed that dental providers know the various things they should do to reduce viral transmission, but they are much less confident that they can make these changes a reality in their practices. For example, 94% of respondents believe securing personal protective equipment (PPE) is important, but only 59% believe they can accomplish this task. Further, 65% believe it is important to reduce the airborne spread of aerosols, but just 50% are confident they can.

Dr. Sean Boynes, vice president of health improvement at the DentaQuest Partnership, added:

“Educating providers to prioritize minimally invasive treatment options as a first line of care is one way to improve confidence. Silver diamine fluoride, temporary restorations with glass ionomers, or atraumatic restorative treatments can reduce or slow cavities—a first line of defense, as appropriate, that doesn’t require high-speed tools that generate aerosols. Not only does this minimize infection risk, but these approaches can also ease patients’ fear of the dentist and can cost less in both dollars and time.”

At the time of the survey, 57% of dental practices were open for routine dental care, and 31% were seeing patients on an emergency basis only. Telehealth services are becoming a more prevalent means of delivering dental care. Four in 10 dental provider respondents currently see patients through teledentistry platforms or plan to do so in the near future.

Nine in 10 dental providers have seen a drop in the volume of their patient visits—51% on average. Nearly three in four dental offices (72%) have either laid off or furloughed staff members as a result of COVID-19.

You can access the full report with survey data—“Dental Care’s New Normal: Provider Survey Reveals the Need to Adapt and Redesign”—at this link.

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Editor’s note: The DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement is a nonprofit organization working to transform the broken health-care system and enable better health through oral health. Find out more at dentaquestpartnership.org.


1. Dental care’s new normal: provider survey reveals the need to adapt and redesign. DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement. June 2020. https://www.dentaquestpartnership.org/system/files/DQP_DentalCare%27sNewNormal_CommunicationsBrief_v2_6.3.20.pdf