Scientists recently discovered that the SARS-CoV-2 virus—the culprit behind COVID—can specifically infect cells in the mouth and may travel in saliva. That news, while promising for future research, doesn’t translate to big changes in the precautions already being taken to prevent the spread of the virus at the dentist office, and definitely shouldn’t make people think twice about visiting their dentist, say faculty at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.
Since the start of the pandemic, dental offices have been successful in minimizing contagion. These recent findings should not deter people from showing up for routine exams, cleanings, and oral-cancer screenings.
In a study published March 25 in the journal Nature Medicine, a team of researchers found evidence that the virus can infect cells in the salivary glands and lining of the oral cavity, and that saliva could play a role in transmitting the virus to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or digestive system. The findings could also help explain why some COVID patients suffer from symptoms like loss of taste, dry mouth, and oral blisters.
Unlike HIV or HPV, COVID is able to remain suspended in airborne particles following aerosol-generating dental procedures—such as drilling or using an air or water syringe. That’s where additional infection control measures that dental offices instituted at the start of the pandemic come in—think N95 masks, face shields, additional air-filtering devices, and plastic barriers surrounding dental operatories. The logistics of a visit to the dentist changed swiftly and drastically as dentistry added this COVID-specific layer of infection control to its already strict protocols.
*This is an abridged version of an article from TufsNow
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