Dentistry ranks high among occupations with potential for exposure to coronavirus

  • Date: 13 May 2020

DENTAL practitioners, nurses and technicians are among the top ten occupations with the highest potential for exposure to the coronavirus, according to analysis published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

ONS researchers estimated exposure to disease (generally) and physical proximity for UK occupations based on US analysis of these factors, using 2019 data.

Among the top ten occupations – all exclusively involved in health and social care – dental nurses were ranked at highest potential risk of exposure, with dental practitioners ranked sixth and dental (and medical) technicians ranked eighth. All such occupations involve working very closely with others (within arms length and often touching) and exposure to disease on a daily basis.

Occupations such as artists and agricultural machinery drivers were ranked among the lowest with potential for exposure.

The analysis also found more women working in occupations likely to be in frequent contact with people and exposed to disease, comprising 75 per cent of these roles, such as dental nurses, midwives, and veterinary nurses.

One in five workers in such occupations are also from black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, compared with 11 per cent of the working population. These workers make up over a quarter of the workers who are dental practitioners (28 per cent), medical practitioners (28 per cent) and ophthalmic opticians (27 per cent).

The report states: "While working practices and conditions may be slightly different in the US for similar occupations, these estimates offer valuable insight into occupations that involve working in close proximity with others and those that are regularly exposed to diseases. This is a useful indication of which roles may be more likely to come into contact with people with COVID-19, based on what these roles normally entail.

"There is a clear correlation between exposure to disease, and physical proximity to others across all occupations. Healthcare workers such as nurses and dental practitioners unsurprisingly both involve being exposed to disease on a daily basis, and they require close contact with others, though during the pandemic they are more likely to be using PPE."

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