Thousands of people from all parts of the world logged onto a virtual international forum about safe dental care in a world of COVID-19. The conference, chaired by Director of the Eastman Institute for Oral Health Dr. Eli Eliav, sought opinions how to best provide dental care during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Some areas in the world like China or Sweden, they are back to work. In Sweden, they actually never stopped working in dentistry. What we're trying to do is to gather experts from five countries from seven different universities and get their opinion on how they can provide dental care under this new threat," says Eliav.

Dentists are routinely exposed to aerosols and saliva that contain the virus, Eliav explained, and they're working on how to better protect themselves and patients from those aerosols. They're also discussing how to best disinfect between patients and how to practice social distancing in their facilities.

Dr. Eliav says next time you go to the dentist, you could expect to be screened before you go in. You'll notice less people in the waiting rooms, and you'll see staff in more personal protective equipment.

He adds that there are other options they're looking into, such as "mouth rinsing with compounds like hydrogen peroxide that can kill the virus, improving the power suction the dentists use, trying to do dentistry with less aerosol."

No one knows exactly when dental offices will reopen. Dr. Eliav is worried when they do, they'll see a lot of patients who waited on treatment. Right now, Eastman for example sees a little more than 100 patients a day for emergencies only. In a typical day before the pandemic, dentists there would see 500 patients.

Dentists have, for years, worked on patients with other infectious diseases like hepatitis, tuberculosis or HIV.

Dr. Eliav says they hope to build on what they already know, and learn from colleagues all around the world.

"We have different perspectives and we can learn from the challenges that they've been able to face after they open," Eliav said.

"Eventually I would like to have it published in one of a scientific journal the conclusions of this conference."