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Dental hygienists in Florida have raised safety concerns as elective procedures resume this week under a state executive order.
The state order comes despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommending "dental facilities postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent dental visits," prioritizing emergency visits for the coming weeks.
Dental care providers contacted Spectrum Bay News 9 with concerns over aerosol usage and lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE.
Aerosols are essential to the practice, dental hygienist Kayte Bush told Spectrum Bay News 9.
Aerosols are tiny particles or droplets which remain suspended in the air. These aerosols represent an infection hazard due to their gross contamination with microorganisms and blood, according to a report published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
“It is not just one dental hygiene instrument that creates aerosols, even just the tool (an air/water syringe) that we use to rinse your mouth out or the 'slow-speed' polishing handpiece we use for every, single cleaning creates massive splatter AND aerosols and we simply can not do our jobs without these tools,” Bush said.
Dr. Rudy Liddell, Florida Dental Association president, had suggested hand-scaling as a safer alternative. Hand-scaling is a term used when dentists use a handheld to scrape plaque from teeth and just below the gumline.
“Treating patients only by hand scaling is not ethical and does not adhere to dental hygiene standards of care,” Bush told Spectrum Bay News 9.
The news outlet reported receiving numerous anonymous emails from dental hygienists expressing safety concerns.
“It’s not safe to get your hair done, but it’s OK to get your teeth cleaned??” one hygienist wrote.
Another anonymous hygienist raised safety concerns as well, describing how dental hygienists are positioned 12 inches from patients’ open mouths.