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Project tries out alternatives to protect dental care professionals

Study conducted at the School of Health and Life Sciences awarded funding from Fapergs

22/05/2020 - 10h55
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Photo: Bruno Todeschini

Data from the Ministry of Health released on May 14 show that more than 31,000 health care professionals have been infected by Covid-19 in Brazil. Studies show that oral health professionals are the most vulnerable population in this scenario, with a high risk of contagion due to the environment and to being close to patients. With this in mind, a group of PUCRS researchers is testing the effectiveness of new devices that ensure more safety and health for dental care professionals.

The project entitled Efficacy of three prototypes of a device for reducing dispersion by aerolization in emergency dental care in times of SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: a randomized controlled clinical trial was one the four PUCRS projects that were selected in the Science and Technology Emergency Call to fight Covid-19, being awarded funding from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Rio Grande do Sul (FAPERGS).

Coordinated by researcher Prof. Dr. Maximiliano Schunke Gomes, of the School of Health and Life Sciences, the project takes into account the high risk that oral health professionals are exposed to during the pandemic. “The risks of cross-infection with SARS-CoV-2 is very high during their practices, due to exposure to saliva, blood and other body fluids, combined with the procedures that generate aerolization (launch of microparticles of water, saliva, blood and secretions , which are suspended in the air) and the management of piercing or cutting instruments”, the researcher explains.

The way Gomes sees it, additional measures to control infection in oral health practice are necessary and have been suggested to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus and help control the pandemic. “Because dental care procedures are unique, standard protective measures in everyday clinical work may not be effective enough to prevent the virus from spreading, especially when patients are incubating, and may ignore or even hide that they are infected”, Gomes comments.

Searching for safer alternatives

According to Gomes, a group of dental surgeons from the Brazilian Military has recently proposed the use of a device. It is made from rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubes surrounded by layers of translucent flexible PVC films. The device is adjusted to the dental chair, and involves the patient’s head and chest region. In this scenario, dentists and their team work through small holes in the PVC film. In theory it is safer from aerolization particles.

The PUCRS project aims to analyze the effectiveness of three prototypes of this device for reducing dispersion by aerolization in emergency dental care. The idea is to test whether the use of the devices reduces the dispersion of particles compared to standard control treatment.

If the hypothesis is confirmed, then this low-cost alternative can be widely used and even improved. In this way, it can reduce an important vector of contamination and help oral health professionals to take decisive actions in preventing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Again, if hypothesis is confirmed, the device may be adapted to other health services, and not only used for dental care purposes.

Maximiliano Schunke Gomes coordinates the project, along with the coordinator of Graduate Program in Dentistry Maria Martha Campos, graduate students Ruy Teichert Filho and Camila Baldasso. The study will be conducted at the Policlínica Odontológica Central, at the Medical-Dental Center of the Military Brigade of RS. The Center for Research in Toxicology and Pharmacology (Intox/PUCRS) will be responsible for conducting microbiological analyses.