Aerosols and splatter in dentistry. Part 1: Review

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Aerosols and splatter in dentistry

A brief review of the literature and infection control implications

The production of airborne material during dental procedures is obvious to the dentist, the dental team and the patient. An aerosol cloud of particulate matter and fluid often is clearly visible during dental procedures. This cloud is evident during tooth preparation with a rotary instrument or air abrasion, during the use of an air-water syringe, during the use of an ultrasonic scaler and during air polishing. This ubiquitous aerosolized cloud is a combination of materials originating from the treatment site and from the dental unit waterlines, or DUWLs. It is common for the patient to comment on this cloud of material. With the advent of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, questions concerning the potential for the spread of infections from this aerosol may arise.

In this article, we review relevant literature that has addressed the presence and makeup of dental aerosols and splatter. We also assess the threats that may be inherent in this airborne material, including risk potential to patients and the dental team. We make recommendations for the control of dental aerosols and splatter.

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 Harrel, S. K., & Molinari, J. (2004). Aerosols and splatter in dentistry: a brief review of the literature and infection control implications. Journal of the American Dental Association (1939), 135(4), 429–437.