Chief Dental Officers Accept Shorter Fallow Recommendations
The volume of dental patients to be seen during the pandemic is set to increase following new fallow time recommendations.
Imposed fallow times have had a significant impact on the number of people who have been able to obtain dental treatments during the pandemic. This has created quite a challenge due to the backlog of patients who were unable to receive care during lockdown, which began in March. Fallow periods of up to 60 minutes have meant that following aerosol-generating procedures, known as AGPs, dentists are required to entirely vacate the treatment room for an hour between patients. This period allows any airborne particles to settle fully on the floor, dental equipment or furniture, before subsequent cleaning can remove any contaminants. Whilst a necessary part of reducing the risk of transmission in a high contact area, these fallow times have been widely criticised for reducing the number of patients that dentists are able to see during this critical time.
CDO Approves Fallow Reduction
The UK’s chief dental officers have all approved recommendations to cut the fallow period between patients in a bid to improve access to dental care. An Essex dentist explains that some dental practices will be able to implement fallow periods of just 10 minutes provided that significant mitigation steps are put in place.
The filtration of air within a dental practice is a factor in determining the baseline time for your fallow period. From opening windows to using high quality ventilation units, these are all positive ways to clean the internal environment of your dental practice, thus reducing the risk to all occupants within the building.
New Fallow Recommendations
A baseline of a 30-minute fallow period can be achieved when a dental surgery commits to using between one to five air changes per hour (ACH). These might include mitigation techniques such as rubber dams or enhanced suction. Practices willing to incorporate six to nine air changes per hour can switch to a fallow time of twenty minutes instead. This can extend further to a baseline of 15 minutes fallow if more than 10 ACH techniques are used.
To achieve the shortest 10-minute period, there are other reduction factors available for dental surgeries. For example, fallow periods may begin as soon as the AGP procedure has finished rather than the point at which the treatment room is vacated. Additionally, any patient who is deemed to be low-risk does not necessarily require a fallow period following an AGP procedure.
However, it is recommended that AGPs only be carried out in rooms with excellent ventilation, which may be natural or mechanical. In terms of maintenance, all ventilation equipment must be checked and repaired periodically to match the recommendations of the individual manufacturer.
Ongoing Risk Analysis
As the pandemic continues, cutting the fallow times will significantly increase the number of patients who are able to receive dental care. However, due to the risks of aerosol-generating procedures, it is vital that practices take the necessary steps to safeguard their patients and staff. By carrying out a regular analysis of their procedures and staying abreast of the latest CDO recommendations, dental practices will be able to play their part in reducing the transmission risk of this deadly virus.