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Supporting Your Practice

Airborne Contamination Caused by Dental Handpieces

Dr. Andrei Ionescu
Microbiologist & Dental Materials Researcher
Milan, Italy

Nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns over the role of aerosol generation in the spread of the virus still loom large. Across the globe, multiple research studies are underway to find a workable solution.

Once such study, authored by Dr. Andrei Ionescu, Microbiologist and Dental Materials Researcher from Milan, Italy, centres upon the topographic aspects of aerosol distribution in the dental office.

“Dentists should not just think about aerosol generation as something that spreads the disease. By putting a biocidal agent into the water lines of the dental unit, dentists may be able to use aerosols to spread biocidal agent instead of the disease”.  

In conversation with Dr. John O’Keefe, Director of Knowledge Networks CDA, Dr. Ionescu introduces his work as the first such study to use a biological tracer, Streptococcus mutans. He outlines his somewhat surprising results and, subject to further study, proposes an innovative solution to the aerosol dilemma.

We hope you find the conversation useful. We welcome your thoughts, questions and/or suggestions about this post and other topics. Leave a comment in the box below or send us your feedback by email.

Until next time!
CDA Oasis Team

Full Conversation (11.24")


  1. Dr Bill Sharun January 25, 2021

    Hi! John! Hope you are well and staying healthy. I enjoy Oasis in my retirement after 45 years in practise. Dentistry is in my blood!!! Is it possible to print the interviews? sometimes I find it easier to read the article than listen to it. Gives me the opportunity to go back for clarification.
    Thank you

  2. VR January 26, 2021

    Thank you for the succinct pdf of this conversation with Dr. Ianescu. Good information from one study. Interesting that, with the spread described in this conversation that there has not seemed to be so much evidence of actual COVID cases developed in the dental office from this type of spread. As dental professionals, we are surely using many methods to reduce spread of ANY illness in the office.

    It’s more likely seen that cases come from staff bringing sickness into the dental office from outside sources. Before COVID, how many dental personnel or patients got sick from aerosol transmission of the flu virus or ??? Definitely more thought needs to be put into ensuring the public feels safe during visits. Will it mean continued extreme levels of PPE or ???

  3. Joe Gamba January 27, 2021

    Given that the study was carried out in an enclosed space and that in North America there is a trend towards open plan clinics, should the layout of a clinic now be a major consideration in Infection control?. How ethical is it with our current knowledge of aerosol spread, to not totally enclose operatories? What role does ventilation play?

  4. Dr. Irena Mota January 28, 2021

    Thanks for the interesting info.
    I had a follow up question. When you did the study did you use high volume suction vs low volume vs nothing? Did that impact the spread is the aerosols?
    We currently see patients in the office. We always use a rubber dam and don’t use any hand pieces without high volume suctions.

    Thanks in advance.

  5. Victor Kutcher February 1, 2021

    No mention of the use of rubber dam or the use of high volume suction. If these were not used then I’m not seeing the relevance to what is done in our clinical settings.

    1. VR February 2, 2021

      Not everyone uses rubber dam for all procedures. The role is to get a baseline and I’m sure further studies can be made. So long as conclusions are NOT made from this one study.

  6. Steve Monzingo February 10, 2021

    I agree with Bill Sharun. I see many articles or conversations in Oasis I would like to read but don’t want to listen to a recording. I’m in my office with team members coming and going and another one or two dentists possibly at their desks on the phone or otherwise busy. I find it annoying and distracting when they have an audio playing and I’m on the phone. A printed piece would be my preference.


    1. CDA Oasis February 10, 2021

      Hello Bill and Steve,

      We will reinstate the transcripts of our conversations soon. The COVID pandemic and the urgency of providing relevant information to dentists prevented us from continuing to provide the transcripts of the conversations (which we used to do pre-pandemic). Thank you for sharing your valuable feedback, we take it seriously and act on it to the best of our abilities.
      Take care,
      CDA Oasis.

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