An important sector of primary care-givers who seem to have been left by the wayside during COVID-19 is Dental Hygienists. These highly trained and skilled professionals are ranked highest in the potential to contract COVID-19 through their work performance.
Before the dentist examines your mouth, your Dental Hygienist has been there and done that. He, or she, assesses, plans, and executes the cleaning of your teeth, above and below the gum line. They note tooth, gum, and general oral problems to the dentist and do an amazing job of removing harmful bacterial plaque, tartar, and stain from our teeth.
Dental hygienists consider colour, texture, location, volume, and odours relating to oral deposits and buildup. They clean with a variety of instruments. Some work with ultrasonic scalers, water or air jet rinses, brushing, and other cleaning techniques – all before and in preparation for the dentist’s entrance.
Dental Hygienists are literally face-to-face with the patient for an extended period. A patient may gag, cough, sneeze, spit, or otherwise expectorate oral secretions with gastric and pulmonary connections. Many of which may contain traces of blood and may be contaminated with HIV, Hepatitis, Dengue, MERS-CoV, and of course, among others, COVID-19. Not to mention a myriad of bacteria that may be resistant to treatment.
On top of the risks related to dental hygiene is the fact that they work alone, so they must practice their art of oral care while at the same time minding the environment for dynamic contaminants. I haven’t seen it written, but I propose the term Aerosol Generating Dental Procedures to bring attention to and recognize the situation DH’s cope with every patient, every day. Lots of people can multi-task but then neither task gets the attention deserved and we know that bio-hazard protection is a full-time task these days.
Of further note is that there is little or no recognition by North Americas’ leading infection prevention and control professional bodies of the dangers faced by Dental Hygienists.
All this has left many Dental Hygienists feeling on their own. In response, the B.C. Dental Hygienists Association has formed a working group to seek out solutions to eliminate or reduce their exposure and enhance their safety in the workplace. They contacted Prodaptive Medical and asked about the STAL Shield and how it would work for them. The result so far is just on paper but shows great promise. We are looking at reducing the STAL’s weight by around 50%, eliminating up to 70 % of visual impediments associated with the current model while retaining the same high level of blockade and confinement the STAL is so well known for.
We look forward to developing this latest STAL Shield to better serve the Dental Hygienists community as well as improve the performance for all its’ applications. Stay tuned for more as Prodaptive Medical lives up to its’ motto – “ We Make Good Better”!