Researchers detect methods to reduce aerosols during dental cleaning

reducing dental aerosols
Photo courtesy of Loma Linda University School of Dentistry

US dental researchers have found the combined use of a high-volume evacuator (HVE) with an intraoral suction device significantly reduces the amount of microbial aerosols generated during a dental cleaning procedure.

The study, conducted by a team from Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, reported that the combination of the two devices improves patients’ and dental professionals’ safety from potentially harmful airborne microbes.

Researchers found a three-fold reduction in microbial aerosols with the simultaneous use of an HVE plus an additional suction device placed in a patient’s mouth when compared to using the HVE only—and published their findings in The Journal of the American Dental Association

“Once organisations like the WHO and CDC released reports describing the virus’s modes of transmission, we quickly understood how dentistry would be affected because a number of dental procedures generate aerosols,” principal investigator Associate Professor Montry Suprono said. 

“So, we wanted to figure out ways to minimise the risks by decreasing the amount of aerosols that are generated during dental procedures.”

The team commenced with a clinical trial involving over 90 dental student participants who would enact roles like operator or patient at the LLU dental clinic. Researchers collected aerosol samples by placing blood agar plates in various zones throughout the clinic, like shelves or patients’ chests, for intervals of time before, during and after the dental cleaning procedures.

The procedures themselves were conducted using a split-mouth design whereby operators used both the HVE instrument and intraoral suction device on one side of the patient’s mouth during one round of the cleaning procedure and used only the HVE on the other side of the patient’s mouth for the other round of the procedure.

Having collected the aerosols in the various agar plates that were incubated for two days, the team then measured the microbial levels of each sample.

Compared to using the HVE alone, the combination of HVE and an intraoral suction device significantly reduced the amount of microbial aerosols generated.

In addition, microbial levels before procedures were similar to the microbial levels after the procedures, indicating a 30-minute time interval for air change and for the aerosols to settle down on surfaces post-procedure appears to be adequate. 

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