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December 22, 2020 Tuesday 03:41:41 PM IST

A foldable tent for safe dental care during the pandemic

Technology Inceptions

Researchers from NUS have invented a portable tent-like shield to prevent the spread of saliva and aerosols generated during dental procedures. The Dental Droplet and Aerosol Reducing Tent (Dental DART) can be placed around the patient’s head to serve as a barrier to protect dentists, nurses and patients from direct and indirect exposure to infectious diseases such COVID-19. In addition, the Dental DART limits the spread of aerosols onto environmental surfaces, decreasing pathogen availability and potential cross-contamination.

This device is an adaptation of DART, an earlier NUS innovation that protects healthcare workers when they perform procedures that generate droplets and aerosols, such as intubation and extubation.

The Dental DART is a clear tented shield with a depth of 54 centimetres at its base and is 64 centimetres high. Its width is adjustable to between 60 and 70 centimetres, to suit dental chairs of different sizes. It comes with three access ports, for dentists and nurses to reach in and safely perform dental procedures.

The tent is attached to vacuum pumps that are available on dental chairs. This system safely removes the contaminated air from the tent, directing it to the scavenging system. This decreases the amount of contaminated materials in contact with the clinician’s hands and arms, and instruments.

The Dental DART has been tested in a clinical setting by measuring the bacterial content on the surface of the dental chair light, and on the face shield worn by the dentist. The tests were conducted before and after scaling procedures – which are known to significantly increase air contamination – were performed.

The results showed that was no increase in the number of viable bacteria on these surfaces after the treatment with the use of the Dental DART. On the other hand, without the use of the tent, there was a significant increase in contamination by 14 times.

The four NUS researchers have filed a patent for the design of the Dental DART. They are looking to collaborate with healthcare and industry partners to make this device available to dentists in Singapore and around the world.