COVID Infection Rates in Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists have had a surprisingly low Covid infection rate. This can be attributed to their hygiene protocols already in place, while keeping themselves out of harms way from whatever their patients might be carrying around.

But when it comes to how dental hygienists’ protocols already implement their own safety, the consensus has become that the risk is low. Unless you are in an oral surgery practice or work with certain patients (HIV positive for example), there is no need to be overly concerned.

Bacteria in dental office air was tested in 2004 and has stayed around the same levels even in 2021. What a shock, with a global pandemic making it’s way into the most personal parts of our lives, it is not strong enough to force its way through the barriers dental offices put in place for both their own safety and the safety of their patients.

The CDC reports that 20 million more people became infected with HIV in the years between 2005 and 2014. This staggering number is only expected to get worse over time. The president of the United States has created a new office dedicated solely to ending this disease with appointments being made each month so far with no signs of stopping.

But let’s talk more about what’s relevant to dentistry. What can we take from the dental world and implement into our own lives to see a difference in our health, sickness levels, and hygiene protocols to better out lives all around? What can be done at the dental office to improve immune defense systems and keep us healthier, longer?

Basic components of infectious disease defense are a strong humoral immunity system. We want this innate system working for us as hard as it can to fight off any bacteria or viruses that come into contact with our body. You may have heard the term: “get vaccinated” but in reality what should be spread is “get healthy, increase your natural immunity, and let your body do the fighting.”

What are some common things that dentists should take into consideration to increase their patients’ immunity? The first one is hygiene. Try to use sterile, disposable equipment for each patient. An example of this would be the disposable chair-side aids that are used during treatment. When you sterilize these tools through an autoclave after every single treatment, you get a system set up for success. The second thing is limiting the number of patients per day. By increasing your immune system, you are also increasing your “bed side manner.”

Another thing to keep in mind with increased immunity is proper nutrition. Fruits and vegetables help boost immunity as well as minimize inflammation in the body. Drinking green tea helps increase antioxidants which combat reactive oxygen species. Doing these things daily, including getting some exercise whether it’s a walk outside or a trip to the gym, will relieve your body’s hard work and start leaning on your help to achieve a decent level of health.

If you are experiencing symptoms of hypervigilance, paranoia, anxiety, nervousness, etc. it is recommended that you seek your doctor or a therapist to help sort out these issues. The goal here is not to fight the “power” but learn how to control it and make its effects positive in your life.

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