World-renowned scientist Linsey Marr, PhD, one of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advisors, recently cited Eastman Institute for Oral Health research in her lecture about the role of aerosols in the transmission of Covid-19.
Dr. Marr is one of fewer than 12 worldwide experts on aerosol transmission of viruses, and one of only a few in America, according to an article in the Virginia Tech Daily. Her expertise quickly became sought after worldwide.
Dr. Marr referenced research led by EIOH Professor Yanfang Ren, DDS, PhD, MPH, whose studies have been widely cited throughout the pandemic. In the early stages, EIOH experts made efforts to assess all the available evidence at the time and determine the potential risks of practicing dentistry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dental Care and Oral Health under the Clouds of COVID-19,” published in April 2020 in JDR Clinical and Translational Research, continues today to be the most cited and most read article, having been downloaded more than 13,000 times. Authors Drs. Ren, Linda Rasubala, Eli Eliav and Hans Malmstrom wanted to address the confusion and anxiety early in the pandemic’s cycle when emergency-only dental procedures were allowed in the U.S. Thoroughly examining the available data at the time from oral health providers around the world, the piece explored the oral health implications of the virus, transmission, provision of care in a safe environment, and provided recommendations.
The next paper, “Risk for dental healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 global pandemic: An evidence-based assessment” was published in July 2020 and also topped the list as most widely read and downloaded in the Journal of Dentistry, the leading international dental journal within the field of restorative dentistry. It is also among the top three of the Journal’s articles that received the most social media attention during the pandemic.
“We found that the risk of COVID-19 transmission in dental offices is extremely low if the CDC guidance is followed,” said Dr. Ren. “Recently published data also shows that the risk for dental professionals to contract COVID-19 is not higher than the general public.”
The article was available shortly after many dental offices re-opened for elective and routine procedures. The authors, Drs. Ren, Changyng Feng, Rasubala and Eliav, concluded that the risk of COVID-19 transmission in dental offices is very low based on available evidence on effectiveness of PPE and prevalence of asymptomatic patients.
With emerging evidence that COVID-19 might be transmissible via airborne aerosol particles, EIOH’s research is now focused on aerosol removal from dental offices by ventilation, air filtration and source controls.
The studies, led by Dr. Ren, and published in the Journal of Dentistry, have showed that aerosol particles will accumulate in dental treatment rooms with a low ventilation rate (less than six air changes per hour), and that a portable air cleaner with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is effective in reducing aerosol accumulation and speeding up aerosol removal.
"We also found that carbon dioxide levels in dental treatment rooms are directly associated with ventilation rate and the number of people in the room,” Dr. Ren explained. “We have developed a protocol for dental practitioners to conveniently and accurately assess the ventilation rate of their treatment rooms by observing the CO2 levels after a simple mixing of household baking soda with vinegar.” This study has recently been accepted for publication in the Journal of Dental Research.
Today, Dr. Ren and his team continue studying aerosol behavior and aerosol control from dental offices in collaboration with University of Rochester mechanical, chemical and building engineers to better understand the risks related to dental aerosols and to assess the effectiveness of different equipment for aerosol removal from dental offices.