How Often Are Dental Care Workers Exposed to Occupational Characteristics that Put Them at Higher Risk of Exposure and Transmission of COVID-19? A Comparative Analysis

J Can Dent Assoc. 2021 Aug;87:l16.


INTRODUCTION: Occupational characteristics of dental care – including closed environment, proximity to staff and patients and the use of aerosol-generating procedures – put workers at high risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission. We describe the frequency of workplace situations that potentially increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in dental care compared with other occupations including health care.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study using sociodemographic and occupational data from the 2016 Canadian census linked to workplace characteristics from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) dataset. We assessed frequency of workplace indicators using an intensity score from 0 (low) to 100 (high) from O*NET on exposure to infection or disease, physical proximity to others, indoor controlled environments, standard protective equipment and specialized protective equipment.

RESULTS: In 2016, 87 815 Canadians worked in the 5 dentistry occupations of interest: dentists; denturists; dental hygienists and dental therapists; dental technologists, technicians and laboratory assistants; and dental assistants. These occupations were routinely ranked in the top 10 of all occupations examined in terms of exposure to workplace indicators that increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Dental hygienists and dental therapists, dental assistants, dentists and denturists, rank as the top 4 occupations, in that order, with the highest exposure to disease or infection and physical proximity to others combined.

CONCLUSIONS: Compared with other occupations, dental care workers are at a higher risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19. These results support the development of workplace guidance to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and enhance the well-being of the dental care workforce.


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