Assessment of Infectious Diseases Risks From Dental Aerosols in Real-World Settings

Shruti Choudhary, Tracey Bach, Meghan A. Wallace, Daniel C. Stoeckel, Martin H. Thornhill, Peter B. Lockhart, Jennie H. Kwon, Stephen Y. Liang, Carey Ann D. Burnham, Pratim Biswas, Heidi M. Steinkamp, Michael J. Durkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Infectious diseases physicians are leaders in assessing the health risks in a variety of community settings. An understudied area with substantial controversy is the safety of dental aerosols. Previous studies have used in vitro experimental designs and/or indirect measures to evaluate bacteria and viruses from dental surfaces. However, these findings may overestimate the occupational risks of dental aerosols. The purpose of this study was to directly measure dental aerosol composition to assess the health risks for dental healthcare personnel and patients. Methods: We used a variety of aerosol instruments to capture and measure the bacterial, viral, and inorganic composition of aerosols during a variety of common dental procedures and in a variety of dental office layouts. Equipment was placed in close proximity to dentists during each procedure to best approximate the health risk hazards from the perspective of dental healthcare personnel. Devices used to capture aerosols were set at physiologic respiration rates. Oral suction devices were per the discretion of the dentist. Results: We detected very few bacteria and no viruses in dental aerosols - regardless of office layout. The bacteria identified were most consistent with either environmental or oral microbiota, suggesting a low risk of transmission of viable pathogens from patients to dental healthcare personnel. When analyzing restorative procedures involving amalgam removal, we detected inorganic elements consistent with amalgam fillings. Conclusions: Aerosols generating from dental procedures pose a low health risk for bacterial and likely viral pathogens when common aerosol mitigation interventions, such as suction devices, are employed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberofac617
JournalOpen Forum Infectious Diseases
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • aerosols
  • dentistry
  • infection control
  • infection prevention


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