Airborne Transmitted Disease Prevention in Dental Settings

Dental procedures can generate a significant amount of airborne material. This is evident to the dentist, dental team and patient when it forms an aerosol cloud during tooth preparation with rotary instruments or air abrasion, during use of water-air syringe for treatment, ultrasonic scaler and more. These materials are often contaminated by bacteria from saliva as well as blood that has been shed into them so contact lenses should be removed before proceeding with any procedure in order to avoid infection risk.

Dental procedures are a high-risk factor for airborne diseases. Pathogenic bacterial species, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Staphylococcus spp., have been found to be spread by dental aerosols reaching most surfaces in the operatory during these procedures. Dentists are always looking for new ways to sterilize their equipment, and recent studies have shown that the cooling spray from dental handpieces is a major source of spatter. In fact, some studies demonstrated aerosols can travel as far away as any surface in the operatory.

Presently, the worldwide impact of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is also felt in dental care since its outbreak. Procedures for infection control and personal protective equipment (PPE) have been updated globally to face these emerging diseases, based on minimal knowledge about present day conditions.

Aerosols or Splatter

The terms “aerosol” and “splatter” were defined as particles less than 50 micrometers in diameter. 

The smaller particles of an aerosol (0.5 to 10 μm in diameter) can penetrate and lodge in the small passages of your lungs, which means they carry a great potential for transmitting infections.

Prevention of Airborne Transmitted Diseases

The CDC Infection control standards were initially developed for dentistry in response to the HIV epidemic and included Standard and Transmission-based Precautions. Based upon emerging evidence regarding SARS-CoV-2, spread is thought to occur mostly from person-to-person via respiratory droplets among close contacts.

Close contact with patients could be dangerous, because the risk of contracting a virus increases as you spend more time in such close proximity. The CDC identifies two ways that this can happen: either by being within 6 feet (2 meters) of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 30 minutes or if they have direct physical contact with liquids from an infected person’s mouth and other body fluids like saliva, sputum/mucus, blood serum, sweat droplets – basically anything coming out through their pores.

The CDC and ADA just updated their interim recommendations on April 7, 2020 for infection prevention and control. These include:


Ongoing education and training is key for ensuring that infection prevention policies are followed. It’s important to offer up-to-date information on basic principles in order to have the best chance of preventing infections from spreading in your dental office. 

Dental offices should provide new and existing employees with education and training on the setting norms, procedures, or tasks they will be performing. The type of information provided in these training can vary from formal lectures to demonstrations during an activity such as a safety meeting.

To keep you and your dental staff safe and updated, you can book for in-office or virtual CDC Dental Guidelines and Infection Control, Dental Handpiece Sterilization and Equipment Maintenance, and Dental OSHA Training offered by Hayes.

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Hayes specializes in various dental handpiece repair and dental instrument sharpening and retipping. Our experienced technicians have decades of experience working with all major brands of dental handpieces including:

 A-dec | Beyes | Bien Air | Denticator | Hall | Henry Schein | Impact Air | Kavo | Lares  Midwest | Morita | Nobel Biocare | Nouvag | NSK | Patterson | Schein Master  

Shamrock | Star | Strauman | Stryker | W&H | Young

American Eagle | HU Friedy | Nordent | PDT