Protect the safety of your Dental Staff and Patients: Guidance on preparing your treatment space

In preparation for seeing patients in an emergency, or as dental clinics re-open, NHS England has set up a COVID-19 Guidance of Standard Operating Practices (SOPs) for Dental services operating under contract to the NHS in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.1 Emphasis is to educate dental staff and patients on research published this year into human coronaviruses (HCoV) which concludes they can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass, or plastic for up to 9 days.2

Before considering the most appropriate surface disinfectants for managing COVID-19, it is worth noting that coronaviruses are classified as ‘enveloped’ viruses.3 Enveloped viruses have an envelope or outer coating which is needed by the virus to help it attach to the host cell. If this outer coating is destroyed, for example, by a disinfectant, the virus cannot replicate. Human coronaviruses can be efficiently inactivated by surface disinfection procedures with 62-71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute.2 Hand hygiene precautions are also crucial in helping prevent the transmission of Coronavirus.

"Staying Safe in Urgent Care Centres” is a poster produced by British Dental Association which depicts a “new day in the life of the dental team” showing best practice to reduce the spread of infection during and possibly continuing after the Coronavirus pandemic.

The dental team is advised to:

  1. Bring two pillow cases from home to place dirty work clothes in at the end of the working day.4
  2. Place mobile phones in plastic bags during working hours.4
  3. Dispose the bag the phone is in on arrival at home.4
  4. Place pillow cases and all work clothes in washing machine separately from other household items.4
  5. Wipe down the machine.4
  6. Wash your hands.4
  7. Shower and dress in clean clothes.4

Although there is justifiably widespread concern about the spread of Coronavirus, at this time, most patients presenting in primary dental care settings are unlikely to have COVID-19.3 With robust protocols and effective disinfectant products, UK dental practices are well placed to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Many of the measures recommended by Public Health England, including cleaning and decontamination of surfaces, use of hand gels, and personal protective equipment, are already routinely in place in dentistry.5

1. NHS (2020) Covid-19 guidance and standard operating procedure. Urgent dental care systems in the context of coronavirus delay phase.
2. Kampf G, Todt D, Pfaender S, Steinmann E; Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. J Hosp Infect. 2020 Feb 6.
3. Sandle T (2020) Covid-19 and dental practice. Accessed: April 2020.
4. British Dental Association (2020) Staying Safe at Urgent Care Centre: A new life in a day of the dental team. Accessed: 23rd April 2020.
5. Public Health England COVID-19: interim guidance for primary care. Updated 25 February 2020.