In a study recently published by The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), less than one percent of participating dentists had become infected with Covid-19 through June 2020. There were 2,195 participating dentists, out of which only 20 had confirmed or probably Covid-19 diagnosis.
Dr. Marcelo Araujo, the chief science officer of the ADA. said, “This is very good news for dentists and patients.” “It means that what dentists are doing – heightened infection control and increased attention to patient and dental team safety – is working.”
In March, The New York Times listed Dentistry as one of the professions at highest-risk of the novel coronavirus infection. In light of the study, the vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute, Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., said, “The fact that dentistry was named one of the most at-risk professions for infection, but has a far lower prevalence of infection compared to other health professions, is not a coincidence. The profession has taken this issue extremely seriously, and it shows.”
Guidelines from both the ADA and CDC promote the highest level of personal protective equipment available, including masks, goggles and face shields. To reduce the amount of aerosols, the ADA recommends rubber dams and high velocity suction whenever possible and hand scaling instead of ultrasonic scaling when cleaning teeth.
Some other findings in the study were that over 1/3 of the dentists reported (at least mild) psychological distress, almost 10% reported symptoms of depression, with almost 20% reporting symptoms of anxiety. About 1/4 of them had at least one medical condition associated with a higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19.
On Thursday, September 24th, 2020, The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a statement titled “FDA Issues Recommendations for Certain High-Risk Groups Regarding Mercury-Containing Dental Amalgam.” In their statement they issue “updated recommendations concerning dental amalgam and potential risks to certain high-risk individuals that may be associated with these mercury-containing fillings used to restore the missing structure and surfaces of a decayed tooth.”
The groups that the FDA states “may be” at a greater risk of negative health effects are:
- Pregnant women and their developing fetuses;
- Women who are planning to become pregnant;
- Nursing women and their newborns and infants;
- Children, especially those younger than six years of age;
- People with pre-existing neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
- People with impaired kidney function; and
- People with known heightened sensitivity (allergy) to mercury or other components of dental amalgam.
Although the FDA defines these groups as ‘maybe’ having a higher-risk of negative health effects from dental amalgam, they don’t appear to provide any new evidence of this being the case. In fact, after the FDA released their statement, the ADA (American Dental Association) released their own press release reaffirming its position on dental amalgam.
The ADA’s press release did acknowledge that they agreed with the FDA’s recommendation of the patient discussing all treatment options with their dental provider, but pointed out that there is “little to no information” on whether or not anyone in these specific groups were at greater risk of negative health effects from the use of dental amalgam. The ADA stands by their assessment that “dental amalgam is a durable, safe and effective cavity-filling option.