COVID-19 rate among dentists less than 1 percent, UAB co-written report finds

A national report co-written by a UAB dentist found that dentists who were assumed to be at increased risk of COVID exposure had a less than 1 percent infection rate of COVID-19.

Editor's Note: The information published in this story is accurate at the time of publication. Always refer to for UAB's current guidelines and recommendations relating to COVID-19.

covid dentistryData showed that less than 1 percent of dentists in the United States were found to be COVID-19-positive. Photo by Lexi CoonData published in the Journal of the American Dental Association showed that less than 1 percent of dentists in the United States were found to be COVID-19-positive. The data was collected in June 2020 during the height of COVID-19 infection spread in the United States. The study also found that 99.7 percent of dentists were utilizing enhanced infection control and prevention measures.

During the initial pandemic period, dentists were thought to be among one of the highest-risk professionals due to proximity with patients and aerosol-generating dental procedures. The reported data may indicate that dentists’ baseline infection control, prevention measures and personal protective equipment — as well as the enhanced measures — may have minimized risk and created safe treatment environments for dentists, dental staff and patients alike. 

“The extremely low infection rate supports the effectiveness of the recommendations from the American Dental Association, CDC and other agencies in helping to keep the dental team and their patients as safe as possible,” said Mia Geisinger, DDS, M.S., professor of periodontology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry and a co-author of the report. “The bottom line is that the dental profession has taken this issue extremely seriously, and it shows. This means that what dentists are doing — heightened infection control and increased attention to patient and dental team safety — is working.”

RS29899 Marie Mia Geisinger 5 scrMia Geisinger, DDS, M.S.This is the first large-scale collection and publication of infection rates among dentists in the United States, according to JADA. The report reviewed cases of nearly 2,200 dentists, finding that 82 percent of dentists were asymptomatic for one month prior to the survey and 16.6 percent got tested for COVID-19. Among all dentists, less than 1 percent received a positive test or were given a probable COVID-19 diagnosis by a physician.

ADA officials and researchers continue to collect infection data and will report findings moving forward, including hygienists in future reports in conjunction with the American Dental Hygienists Association.

Geisinger adds that, looking ahead, patients should feel safe visiting the dentist and should not put off treating their oral health as regular and planned.

“Because of these findings and because we have no known reports of transmission of COVID-19 during the provision of dental care, we feel that resuming dental visits is important,” Geisinger said. “Treatment and prevention of dental diseases, including cavities and gum disease, improves systemic health, and emerging evidence suggests that gum disease may be linked to more severe COVID-19 symptoms. We know that dental care is essential to overall wellness, and this study allows us to feel confident that the dentist’s office is a safe place for patients and for the dental team.”