The global Covid-19 pandemic (SARS-CoV-2) has changed the world’s perspective as it relates to health, paying close attention to prevention and control of the spread of the coronavirus. Health professionals now have to take necessary precautions by adopting additional biosafety measures in order to control the transmission of the virus amongst patients and themselves.
Controlling the spread of the virus in long‐term care facilities (LTCFs) is considered one of the greatest challenges faced during the fight against COVID-19. The potential for COVID-19 infection can be relatively high in residents with disabilities and systemic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, chronic kidney disease or patients who are in an immunocompromised state. Disabled residents (semi- dependent or completely dependent) who rely on caregivers are at a higher risk of contracting the virus due to their daily interactions with caregivers who are exposed to the external environment on a daily basis. Living conditions within long-term care facilities also contributes to the residents’ vulnerability to the coronavirus. Residents who share common spaces (bedroom and bathroom) have a higher chance of contracting the virus from another asymptomatic resident within these spaces.
Residents who present COVID -19 symptoms should be isolated in a separate room and prohibited from using common spaces. The lengthy list of symptoms includes:
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste or smell
- A rash on the skin
- Discoloration of the fingers or toes
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Loss of speech or movement
Caregivers who are responsible for the care of semi-dependent or completely dependent residents, should follow and adopt and biosafety protocols during interaction with these residents especially when performing hygienic tasks. It is important that they use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face shields, goggles, clean caps, gloves and masks (N95, FFP3 or FFP2) to reduce and prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.
How to Maintain Oral Hygiene in the Infirmed with COVID-19?
Dependent infected residents should maintain daily hygienic routines with emphasis on frequent hand washing and maintaining good oral and denture hygiene. These routines should be done in a separate bathroom from the other residents, as they produce saliva droplets and aerosols that increases the risk of contamination within the area. Oral antiseptic rinses such as povidone iodine can be used before brushing and to decrease the oral viral load in infected individuals and the risk of transmission. Research has shown that povidone iodine has a prophylactic effect on SARS – CoV, a viral strand from the coronavirus family. In the absence of povidone iodine, hydrogen peroxide, which is more common can be utilized. Personal items such as toothbrushes, dental floss and denture storage cups used must be properly cleaned and stored separately. Of course, as with illnesses such as the Flu, when the patient recovers their toothbrush is to be replaced immediately.
If you have any queries or questions, consult your local Ministry of Health to find out the recommended protocols for maintaining the oral hygiene of COVID-19 infected patients in your country.
Daveia Christenia Johnson is final year dental student at the Federal University of Minas Gerais(
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais – UFMG), Belo Horizonte, Brazil.