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A first-ever joint study by the American Dental Hygienists Association and the American Dental Association found that the overall rate of COVID-19 infection among dental hygienists is just 3.1 percent.

That's good news for dental practices that were previously labeled as "high risk" environments by the Occupational Health & Safety Administration. 

The Details

The ongoing, longitudinal, web-based study was published in The Journal of Dental Hygiene in February, and received nearly 4,800 responses from hygienists from every state and Puerto Rico through October 8, 2020, the first month that data was collected. Surveyed areas included:

  • COVID-19 infection items (including probable and confirmed test results)
  • COVID-19 related symptoms respondents had experienced in the last month 
  • Respondents' level of concern about COVID-19 transmission to patients and themselves
  • Depression/anxiety screening
  • PPE use when treating patients

Findings, And How You Can Use Them 

Understandably, respondents overall indicated elevated levels of depression and anxiety. This, despite the fact that nearly all practices (99 percent) had instituted enhanced PPE and sterilization practices in response to COVID-19. 

As noted, the overall infection rate among hygienists was placed at 3.1 percent. Despite the low incidence rate – far below the general population – a second study in the joint research found that 8 percent of hygienists have left the profession – 60 percent voluntarily – citing fear of infection, child care concerns, and other factors. Another 25 percent were involuntarily laid off when practices were forced to provide emergency services only or closed entirely.

Use of enhanced PPE was directly correlated with years of experience among hygienists.

There are several aspects of these findings that the dental practice can use in 1) providing the reassurance patients need to schedule appointments, and 2) recruiting hygienists.

First, the low incidence rate is something that your patients and prospects need to know about. If  your practice has had a lower – or even zero – infection rate among hygienists, shout that to the rooftops. Be sure to pair that with details about your enhanced use of PPE to safeguard patients and staff alike.

Second, with country-wide vaccinations picking up speed, it will likely be easier to recruit hygienists to return to the workforce. Easier, but not necessarily easy, particularly if you're looking to hire one or more A-Players for your team.

SmartBox has done the heavy lifting for you when it comes to recruiting and hiring the right A-Players for your team. Check out our A-Player Hiring System for details.


Written by Smartbox

SmartBox employs the best minds in dentistry to help you grow your practice. Our Practice Growth System™ is proven to help dentists in every market area across the country achieve predictable year-over-year growth.

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