Mitigating The Risks of AGPs
What are fallow periods and how are they affecting the average dental practice?
Dentists have been open for business since the 8th June, following the imposed lockdown during the pandemic. But it’s fair to say that a visit to your typical dentist practice may seem very different at the moment as day-to-day operations need to satisfy pages of government regulations. One of these includes the introduction of fallow periods.
The Impact of Aerosol Generating Procedures
One of the biggest challenges to dentists, is their need to carry out aerosol-generating procedures, or AGPs which pose a significant risk to the health of anyone in the vicinity. As particles are expelled from the patient’s mouth and respiratory system, these could settle anywhere in the treatment room. Dentists and nurses should of course be fully equipped with a range of PPE gear including face shields and FFP3 masks, as well as disposable aprons and gloves. However, these particles could also settle on the surface of any item in the treatment room, including the chair, work surfaces or equipment. If these particles are contaminated with Covid-19, then this of course would accelerate the transmission of this highly contagious disease.
Essex dental professionals explain that each practice will need to carry out an individual assessment of their own facilities to determine the level and type of risks that exist. Frequent cleaning of the treatment room and waiting areas will need to occur between each patient. However, when aerosol generating procedures have taken place, it is required by the government, that there is a minimum of a 1 hour fallow period in place. This allows for a 60 minute gap following the patient leaving the room, before anyone is allowed to enter it again to clean before the next patient arrives. In the case of negative pressure rooms, this time may be reduced to 20 minutes.
Challenges With Adopting Fallow Periods
Fallow periods effectively take out a treatment room for more than an hour, thus slowing the rate at which dentists are able to take appointments during the working day. With a significant backlog anyway, following the lockdown, this is incredibly frustrating for dentists who want to treat as many patients as possible. Some dentists have called for the government to revisit these guidelines and perhaps place more emphasis on patients self-isolating for a set period of time before attending a dental appointment to reduce the risk.
How Can Air Filtration Systems Work?
To achieve a negative pressure room, and therefore reduce the fallow period to just 20 minutes, you can opt to use either an air filtration unit or an extraction fan. You’ll find the extraction fan to be a more cost-effective solution and can follow this simple equation to ensure that you’re reaching negative pressure. Calculate the volume of your room, then select an extraction unit which removes a minimum of 12 times that volume in an hour. By investing in extractors or air filtration, you can be assured that you’re improving the internal quality of the air in your dental practice which is important as Covid-19 isn’t just transmitted through AGPs but also through speech, breathing and coughing.
The dental sector has adjusted to the changing times, but it remains to be seen for how much longer these fallow period regulations will be in place. It may be that a greater degree of flexibility is permitted in the near future, but for now, they’re an essential part of reducing the transmission rate and keeping us all safe.