COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
Are you a dental professional with questions about COVID-19?
Each of the questions in the table link to the full question and corresponding answer.
Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us here or call us on 0800 193 1033.
- Why is COVID-19 any different from other infectious diseases?
- What is the incubation period for COVID-19?
- What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- Which patients can and can’t be seen in general dental practices?
- What risk assessments do we need to undertake?
- What is an Aerosol Generated Exposure (AGE)?
- What are high-risk AGEs?
- How do I transport and clean my work uniform/scrubs?
- Can we open the drawers in our surgery during high and low risk AGEs?
- I work as a dental nurse and I have recently developed a loss of taste and smell. Can I still attend work?
- How do I get tested for COVID-19?
- I am a fully private dental practice. Are my staff eligible for an NHS COVID-19 test?
- I work in a dental practice and my daughter has got symptoms of COVID-19. She is awaiting her test results. Can I continue to go to work?
- How long should I wait before getting tested for COVID-19?
- How long should I self-Isolate for?
- Do I have to self-isolate if I was wearing a face covering or facemask?
- What is NHS Test and Trace? Does it apply to private dental practices?
- What does close contact mean?
- I returned to work last week after a 14-day period of self-isolation, but I have got COVID-19 symptoms again. What should I do?
- If I was previously tested positive with COVID-19, do I still need to get tested and self-isolate?
- My child has been sent home from school because of a runny nose. What shall I do?
COVID-19 is caused by a novel (new) air-borne coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that current thinking suggests is transmitted by droplet and aerosol contamination and through close contact (less than 2 metres) with an infected person or through touching contaminated surfaces.
The overwhelming majority of pathogens in the dental practice are blood-borne viruses (BBVs) such as Hepatitis B, HIV, Hepatitis C and vCJD. There are extremely robust infection control procedures for dealing with BBVs but much less robust procedures for air-borne viruses and contact viruses. Additions to standard infection control procedures, including the use of PPE, are therefore considered necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic and possibly beyond.
The incubation period for COVID-19 averages 5 days and can be up to 14 days, during which time patients are thought to be infectious even though they may be asymptomatic. It must therefore be assumed that many people may be asymptomatic and are either carrying or incubating the virus. This applies equally to clinicians, team members, patients, and members of the public. There may also be individuals who choose to conceal their symptoms to access treatment.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the symptoms include (but are not always limited to):
- Fever (a temperature over 37.8 degrees centigrade).
- A new persistent cough.
- Muscle pains.
- Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
- Severe pneumonia.
- Loss of taste and smell.
The two most prevalent symptoms of COVID-19 are a new, persistent dry cough and a temperature. It is now thought that loss of taste and smell are also significant, and, in some people, this is the only symptom they experience.
Only patients who are asymptomatic and whose household members are also all asymptomatic for COVID-19 can be seen.
Patients who are self-isolating because they have one or more of the published symptoms of COVID-19 and patients who are part of a household in which another member is self-isolating for the same reason cannot be treated in practice. No treatment can be provided in dental practice for these patients until the end of the self- isolation period.
If a patient can’t be seen at your practice you should know what the local arrangements are for seeing these patients e.g. an urgent dental care centre and you should make arrangements for them to be seen.
You will need to undertake risk assessments for:
- Every patient you see at your practice during the pandemic.
- All clinicians and all team members.
- Your practice.
To understand how to undertake risk assessments, take our CPD courses in the New Patient Journey and Risk Assessments Demystified.
The Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK), the FGDP guidance issued in June created the descriptor ‘aerosol generated exposure’ or AGE. An AGE is then further qualified as being a low-risk AGE (breathing, speaking, coughing, and sneezing or activating the gag reflex, some dental treatments) and a high-risk AGE (dental treatment that creates an aerosol). A high-risk AGE equates to what we have come to describe as an Aerosol Generating Procedure or AGP. This is very helpful as it stratifies risk and allows a risk-based approach to the selection of appropriate PPE.
High-risk AGEs are dental procedures that include (but are not limited to) the use of:
- The air turbine.
- The three in one air/water syringe when use of air and water is combined.
- Slow speed handpieces used for caries removal or polishing.
- Surgical motors with irrigant/irrigation.
- Ultrasonic scalers and Piezo handpieces.
- Endosonic handpieces.
- Rotary endodontic handpieces.
- Sandblasting, air abrasion, air polishing
FFP2 masks filter 94% of particles. They are the equivalent to N95 (USA) masks and meet the guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for protection against COVID-19.
FFP3 face masks have a marginal benefit over FFP2 masks and are the most effective at filtration. They provide filtration of 99% and have a maximum leakage of 2% to the inside.
FFP3 masks fit better and reduce the build-up of moisture, thereby lengthening the lifespan of the mask.
Version 1.1. of the FGDP guidelines states that in the absence of FFP3 masks, FFP2 can be worn whilst undertaking high-risk aerosol generated exposures.
A valved mask will only protect the wearer because the expired air can transmit infectious particles unfiltered into the air. The valve acts as a comfort device and allows air to escape from the mask, meaning it can be worn for longer periods.
A non-valved mask provides two-way protection and protects the wearer and the patient. Breathing with a non-valved mask is more difficult and dental team members who wear glasses may find it hard to wear because it causes the build-up of condensation and makes it harder to see clearly.
Current FGDP guidelines and guidelines from the Chief Dental Officers state that all FFP2 and FFP3 masks MUST be fit tested. Fit testing must be carried out by a competent person as described by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
All team members must be provided with adequate surgery-only uniform/scrubs and/or reception uniform for each working day.
Surgery-only uniform/scrubs must be worn under a disposable or re-usable gown and must be changed daily and laundered daily.
Clinical team members must not travel to and from work in uniform/scrubs.
Rooms or areas should be available for team members to change into and out of uniforms or scrubs.
Uniforms/scrubs should be transported home in a pillowcase.
The scrubs and the pillowcase must be laundered immediately on return home (or at the practice if the facility is available) and separately at 60c or at a higher temperature if the fabric allows.
Opening drawers is a tricky one! Actually we have been advised for many, many years that we should not open drawers during treatment due to the risks associated with any droplets in the air falling on clean materials in a drawer, so this isn’t technically a new ‘requirement’. However, realistically we all know that this isn’t always followed.
COVID-19 however poses a whole new risk level, especially while there is still much to learn about how it is spread and also while it is circulating in the community. For that reason, we should keep all drawers closed during treatment, whether this is for a high-risk AGE or a low-risk AGE. The differentiation between high and low risk levels of AGEs is very important because it acknowledges that there is no such thing as ‘no AGE’ because of speaking, breathing, coughing etc. That’s the reason theatres still cannot open and we have to wear masks in enclosed areas in public.
So, the answer is the ‘no opening drawers rule’ applies whatever you are doing.
10. I work as a dental nurse and I have recently developed a loss of taste and smell. Can I still attend work?
You can have a swab test to check if you have coronavirus (COVID-19). You can either:
- Choose to take the test in your local area at the designated testing centres OR
- Order a home test kit via https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
If you have trouble with your internet, please call 119 if you are in England, Wales or Northern Island and 0300 303 2713 if you are in Scotland. Lines are open 7 am to 11pm every day.
Yes, the NHS COVID-19 test is available to everyone who have symptoms for coronavirus (i.e. a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or loss or change to your sense of smell or taste).
13. I work in a dental practice and my daughter has got symptoms of COVID-19. She is awaiting her test results. Can I continue to go to work?
No. You should not attend work and must immediately self-isolate if you or any member of your household have symptoms.
You should get yourself tested as soon as you have symptoms for coronavirus.
If you have tested positive for coronavirus or have symptoms, you will need to self-isolate for at least 10 days. You will need to self-isolate for 14 days if:
- Someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive
- You have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
- Someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive
Yes. You will have to self-isolate for 14 days if you come in close contact to with someone who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19. The NHS Test and Trace state that:
“ if you work in – or have recently visited – a setting with other people (for example, a GP surgery, a school or a workplace). The use of face masks and other forms PPE does not exclude somebody from being considered a close contact, unless they are providing direct care with patients or residents in a health and care setting”.
The NHS Test and Trace is a service:
- To ensure that everyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus can be tested quickly;
- To help trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and notify them that they must self-isolate (if necessary) to stop the spread of virus.
NHS Test and Trace applies to everyone including private dental practices.
Close contact means:
- Having face-to-face contact with someone less than 1 metre away (this will include times where you have worn a face covering or a face mask)
- Spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of someone
- Travelling in a car or other small vehicle with someone (even on a short journey) or close to them on a plane.
19. I returned to work last week after a 14-day period of self-isolation, but I have got COVID-19 symptoms again. What should I do?
If you get symptoms for coronavirus again, you must immediately self-isolate and ask for a test.
20. If I was previously tested positive with COVID-19, do I still need to get tested and self-isolate?
You must self-isolate again even if you had a positive test result for COVID-19 before. Your body may have developed some immunity, but it is not clear how long it will last. You must get tested again if you develop symptoms and you must not leave your home during self-isolation.
All schools are on the lookout for a potential outbreak. Children will only be sent home if they are showing symptoms of coronavirus. You must immediately book a test for your child and you and your family must self-isolate till the test results are back.
Here you will find some resources that may help. You can sample them and/or download them.