SINGAPORE: With the aim of preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a portable tent-like shield for use during dental procedures. Named the Dental Droplet and Aerosol Reducing Tent—the Dental DART—the foldable transparent structure is placed around the patient’s head in order to create a barrier that reduces direct and indirect exposure to viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.
The Dental DART was developed specifically for dental procedures and is based on the initial DART device that was developed in 2020 by NUS researchers in order to protect healthcare workers during the pandemic. In an NUS press release, the lead researcher on the project, Prof. Freddy Boey, deputy president for innovation and enterprise at the university, said: “The Dental DART is a design evolution, and has been prepared to protect dentists and their patients from potential infectious agents present in the aerosols that are generated during dental procedures.”
The Dental DART has an adjustable width of between 60 cm and 70 cm so that it can be used on dental chairs of different sizes. The device has no underside, which permits air to enter it, and it features three access points so that dentists and nurses can reach into it in order to perform dental procedures. The device attaches to the vacuum pump installed on the dental chair so that potentially infected aerosols and droplets can be removed from the tent and directed into the scavenging system. According to NUS, the tent decreases the number of materials contaminated by the clinician’s hands, arms and instruments and limits the spread of aerosols onto surfaces in the treatment room.
NUS said that the researchers had tested the device in clinical settings by measuring bacterial content on personal protective equipment (PPE) face shields worn by the treatment teams and on the surface of the dental chair light, before and after high-contamination scaling procedures. “The results showed [there] 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,” NUS said.
“Dental DART can help provide a safer environment in the dental clinic setting, and decrease the anxiety and psychological distresses imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic”
– Prof. Mandeep Singh Duggal, NUS
Dr Vinicius Rosa, a co-inventor of the device, commented: “Personal protective equipment, or PPE, can be infected after being exposed to aerosols from dental procedures. The use of the Dental DART can decrease the PPE exposure to aerosols and prevent further environmental contamination at the time the clinicians remove their arms, hands, and instruments from the tent.”
The research team has filed a patent for the Dental DART and hopes to collaborate with the healthcare sector and other industry partners in order to make the device available to dental teams in Singapore and around the world.
Co-inventor Prof. Mandeep Singh Duggal, of NUS Dentistry, said that the Dental DART could play a role in decreasing the stress experienced by patients and dental professionals during the pandemic. He explained: “Dentistry is an essential service and it has suffered tremendously since the beginning of this pandemic. Many dental service providers in Singapore have imposed a complete ban on aerosol-generating procedures during the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. While imposing such extreme measures is understandable, it has also left thousands of people without proper treatment. Our Dental DART can help provide a safer environment in the dental clinic setting, and decrease the anxiety and psychological distresses imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic on all parties involved.”