According to the British Dental Association over 14.5 million fewer dental treatments were carried out between the March 2020 lockdown and September 2020 in England compared to the same period in 2019.1 Due to the pandemic dentists are not able to see as many patients as they used to as due to COVID restrictions there needs to be a gap between patient treatments to minimise the risk of virus transmission. This is called ‘fallow time’ and has been said to be the biggest barrier to increasing dental appointment capacity. However, there is a solution with effective ventilation vital to reduce the fallow time between appointments, reduce the infection rates and keep patients safe by increasing fresh air circulation in dentist surgeries.
Evaluating ventilation systems in dental surgeries is essential to make these spaces safe for both practitioners and patients, as people continue to require dental care throughout the COVD-19 pandemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised medical personnel to consider taking ‘airborne precautions’. To prevent airborne transmission dental surgeries should be sufficiently ventilated with great emphasis placed on removing bio aerosols caused by aerosol generating procedures (AGP).
Sufficient ventilation can be achieved by increasing the air changes per hour (ACH), the number of times the air is changed per hour in a given space. This provides two benefits. Firstly, it removes viral or bacterial pathogens from the space, crucial in dentistry which involves a lot of procedures that produces aerosols. And secondly, the higher the number of air changes per hour, the shorter the fallow time before the next patient can enter the room.
The latest Government guidance ‘COVID-19: Infection Prevention and Control Dental Appendix’ recommends dentists evaluate the number of air changes in their practices to ensure sufficient ventilation. Where there is ventilation, but the number of ACH are either unknown or are 1 to 5 ACH, the guidance recommends a downtime of 30 minutes fallow time, with mitigation such as high-volume suction/ rubber dam. Where there are 6 to 9 ACH, a downtime of 20 minutes is recommended and where there are 10 or more ACH, there should be a downtime of 15 minutes. It therefore makes sense to dentists to improve ventilation to protect staff and patients as well as allowing more appointments through the day as a result of a shorter fallow time between patients.
For dentists looking for ventilation advice Vent-Axia is committed to improving indoor air quality and public health and has helped in the national response against COVID-19. The company can advise on a wide range of ventilation solutions that are ideal for dental surgeries depending on practice. Where dentists are keen to add extra airflow easily and quickly rather than upgrading a whole building system, consultants can consider adding commercial extract fans to increase fresh air.
Some dentist practices may think upgrading ventilation is a big investment since installing a whole building ventilation system can cost in the region of 10k, making it prohibitive for some practices – but there are more affordable options on offer by opting for unitary ventilation. Extract/supply fans can simply be installed through a window or wall offering little disruption. For example, a traditional Vent-Axia T-Series window fan is available from as little as £325.17. The only other cost is the installation of the fan through a window – so for a relatively small investment, dentists can benefit from the ventilation result they need to reduce fallow time and so see more patients.
Vent-Axia’s T-Series commercial fan offers high performance ventilation with low running costs. With both window and wall options available, as well as Lo-Carbon models, it is both durable and reliable. Available with four sizes of extract/intake fans and an easy fit connector Top Socket allowing fast and trouble-free mains connection, the T-Series is easy to install and replace. Alternatively, for ducted applications energy efficient ACM Mixed Flow In-Line fans offer quiet ventilation with two and half times the pressure of conventional axial fans. Their compact design also makes them ideal for many ducted applications and they can operate in both horizontal and vertical positions.
For dentists wishing to upgrade ventilation in the whole building there are heat recovery or demand ventilation options. The Integra Heat recovery unit is ideal for smaller commercial applications up to 180m2. With low power consumption and heat recovery, the unit extracts heat energy from the outgoing air and transfers this energy to the incoming fresh air tempering it, without the two air streams mixing. Meanwhile, D-ERV systems have sophisticated controls and sensors that can be used to easily adapt the system to the new COVID-19 requirements, providing ventilation appropriate to occupant needs. Vent-Axia’s Sentinel Totus2 D-ERV demand ventilation features low energy EC/DC motors, up to 90% energy recovery and G4 replaceable synthetic filters, complete with filter change warning, and optional high grade F6 filters.
Vent-Axia has created a dedicated web page to inform and advise dental surgeries on the vital role of ventilation. For further information on all products and services offered by Vent-Axia telephone +44 (0)344 856 0590 or visit the Vent-Axia website.
- British Dental Association Press Release, issued on 16 November 2020, ‘Dentists: Government holds the key to restore services to millions’ Press releases Dentists: Government holds the key to restore services to millions (bda.org)
- Boasting over 80 years’ experience, Vent-Axia is the ventilation sector’s clear leader, chief innovator and forerunner in developing energy efficient products that help provide good indoor air quality. Committed to improving indoor air quality and comfort in both homes and buildings, Vent-Axia provides the sector’s most comprehensive choice from any single manufacturer. Vent-Axia’s range covers not just air movement and ventilation technologies but heat recovery, electric heating, hand dryers, cooling and clean-air systems for residential, commercial, public sector and industrial applications.