Ventilation is Critical for Battling COVID
Safe Dental Care During COVID and Beyond
We developed an easy process to help providers assess the ventilation rate in their treatment rooms.
Depending on the ventilation rate, respiratory aerosol particles can remain in the indoor air for hours or days. As healthcare providers continue to navigate the COVID pandemic and the emerging variants, it’s critical to improve indoor air quality and facilitate respiratory aerosol removal from the indoor environment to minimize potential exposures to patients and providers alike.
While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not have an established recommendation of ventilation rate specifically for dental settings, guidelines do exist for treatment rooms in outpatient healthcare facilities, which recommend that the ventilation rate be 15 air changes per hour in surgical procedure rooms. Because dentists perform a wide variety of procedures that often produce spatters, droplets and aerosols, we have adopted this CDC recommendation and developed strategies to improve the ventilation rate to 15 air changes per hour in our dental treatment rooms at Eastman Institute for Oral Health, part of the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Many factors play a role in the ventilation rate for any given room, such as the HVAC system, size and design of the rooms, and structure and age of the building. Eastman Institute for Oral Health has developed a protocol to help dentists and other providers easily determine the ventilation rate, measured in air change per hour, or ACH, for any room, anywhere.
Knowing what the ventilation rate is for individual dental treatment rooms will help providers understand what steps they can take, if necessary, to improve ventilation and air change, for example by improving the HVAC system of the building or adding a portable air cleaner in the room.
Improved ventilation and air filtration is an important step in a multi-layered approach for safe delivery of dental care during an infectious respiratory disease pandemic. Pre-appointment screening for signs and symptoms, proper physical distancing, pre-procedural mouth rinses, proper use of personal protective equipment including N95 masks and protective goggles or face-shields, and thorough disinfection and cleaning, are all important layers against potential spread of COVID-19 in dental settings.