COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented challenges to healthcare systems all over the world. Dental care services have been particularly disrupted.
In Ghana, many dental units at health facilities countrywide closed due to the risk of COVID-19 infection from inhalation of aerosols produced during dental procedures.
Some patients seeking dental care services may possibly have been infected by COVID-19, without showing symptoms. This puts dentists directly and closely at risk of acquiring the virus.
With facilities closed, clients who needed urgent and emergency dental care had to put their needs on hold.
A safe environment for dentists
That challenge provoked a thought among a team of health workers at the Dental unit of the Greater Accra hospital in Accra, Ghana, where after initial failed attempts, the team made an aerosol extractor for use in the surgical environment. Their objective is to create a safe environment for dentists, ensuring that dental services are sustained through the pandemic.
“This we hope will give psychological support to the dental fraternity to get gradually back to work,” said Dr. Maxwell Adjei, head of Oral Health at the Ghana Health Service.
Dr. Adjei explained that the technology is built to simultaneously suck up aerosol as it is generated during dental procedures like cleaning or filling.
“Previously, this would just come out of the patient’s mouth and accumulate in the surgical environment risking the lives of everyone who is not in a face mask in a surgical environment,” he said.
With growing evidence that global disease outbreaks are a growing threat, Dr. Adjei suggests that COVID-19 should be addressed in a systemic manner as any other natural hazard like floods. This implies a shift from responding to crises, to instituting measures that address all vulnerabilities of the health sector. This way, the health systems would still operate and effectively respond to such problems in the future
According to the director of institutional care at the Ghana Health Service Dr. Samuel Kaba, such innovations should be improved and made much more available.
“We are looking for ways to extend this service to all the dental units in Ghana for us to be able to resume procedures that are considered to be highly dangerous,” he said.
The aerosol extractor is designed to take care of clients who successfully go through the triage process at the facility without showing any signs of coronavirus. The technology is made out of large flexible tubing, extractor motor, a filter, and aluminium tubing.
The production of the aerosol extractor cost three thousand Ghanaian Cedis which translates to $513. Dr. Adjei and his team may need to work a little more at reducing the production cost if all health facilities that need such equipment are to access it.