Pandemic of COVID-19 has led to global crisis. The rapid surge of COVID-19 disease has not only raised widespread public health concerns but has collapsed world’s economy. It has put immense strain on social stability and the global health systems, particularly challenging the health care workers including the Dental care professionals (DCP). It is, therefore, crucial that prudent information should be relayed to health care professionals in the time of this global emergency. Considering this, the current study investigated the knowledge and attitude of dental faculty towards the COVID-19 disease. To date, only limited studies are reported that explored dentist’ awareness and attitude towards COVID-19 contagion. Due to scare data available, the comparison of our outcomes has been done mainly with other associated conditions.
The current study revealed generally adequate knowledge and positive attitude of Qassim University dental faculty towards the COVID-19 disease. Most of the participants exhibited sufficient knowledge about questions related to mode of disease transmission, urgent dental care procedures, significance of PPE while examination, use of high volume suction and WHO guidelines regarding hand hygiene. These outcomes are in accordance with the results reported by Khader et al. in their study on the Jordanian dentists . Moreover, the findings are consistent with outcomes of other studies in which Health care workers showed positive attitude and adequate implementation of personal protective equipment and hand disinfection protocol whiling dealing with SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV[19, 20, 21]. These outcomes are promising as good hygiene practices and disinfection can cause decrease in morbidity and death rate. This level of awareness can be attributed to the comprehensive awareness campaigns run by International and National health authorities. We are living in a world where the social media has revolutionized communications. Social networks have become the central facilitator for daily transmission by emerging as a powerful communication medium . However, the DCP’s should be well informed about the unverified harmful information that can disseminate quickly and can result in the misguidance. Considering this, the scientists and health authorities have cautioned the DCPs should carefully assess the information related to COVID-19 and should utilize only the authentic and scientific literature as a source of information [23, 24].
On the other hand, with regard to the questions related to rubber dam isolation, four handed dentistry [25, 26], use of N95 mask, role of antibiotics, tele-screening and recommended extraction protocol, faculty exhibited moderate knowledge. Possible explanation for these findings could be the knowledge gap and poor understanding of disease transmission via high aerosol production during dental procedures. These results are comparable to some of the studies which concluded that dentists’ knowledge of respiratory disease contagion and its management was less as compared to other healthcare providers , despite their proximity to the patient during treatment . Likewise, in a study conducted in Qassim in perspective of MERS, majority of health workers (57.6%) replied incorrectly when asked whether antibiotics are first choice drugs . This outcome is comparable with the result of another study where 40% of participants gave negative response when asked about specialized management protocols . This might be due to the inadequate briefing of the relevant authorities on the management issues during the educational campaign. Moreover, moderate knowledge about the aforementioned questions in our study might be due to the fact that in Saudi Arabia after the outbreak of COVID-19 more seminars are held for medical healthcare workers as compared to dentist community. Inadequate knowledge was ostensible in reply to two questions, one regarding safety of use of ultrasonic in Covid-19 suspected patients and the other was related to efficacy of 1% of hydrogen peroxide mouthwash as a pre-rinse.
Moreover, further insight into the study showed a positive mean value in attitude domain. These results are consistent with other studies which showed mean positive attitude of physicians [30, 31]. Dental faculty showed most affirmative response and positive attitude in reply to questions about anxiousness regarding cross infectivity, to accommodate only emergency cases, seeking patient’s relevant medical and travel history and minimization of aerosol generating procedures. The anxiety of our faculty regarding cross infectivity are contradictory to results of recent study, where most of the dentists (71.7%) perceived COVID-19 as moderately dangerous disease and almost one third believed that COVID-19 is not a serious public health issue. Although same study concluded that dentists should evaluate patients through measurement of the body temperature as a routine procedure and should be asked about any history of recent contact or travel , and these results are in accordance with our study. These findings are also in harmony with another study in which health care workers displayed positive attitude in using personal protective gear and were adamant that goggles and gloves should be worn when dealing with healthcare related nosocomial infections .
The most negative attitude was seen in question no 9 (3.42 ± 1.08) in which faculty was asked if they would like to volunteer their services in support of medical teams in case of future emergency. So far, there is no comparable data to assess the attitude of dentists about their involvement in COVID-19 emergency support teams but there is one recent study, which has presented model of dental outreach program in case of any untoward emergency situation in current diseases outbreak .
In present study mean scores were also found to be negative (less than 4) in question no 7 and 8, regarding willingness of dental faculty to attend any training sessions to handle any untoward Covid 19 situation. The reason for this negative response may be wrong perception of faculty, to link these training sessions as part of building volunteer teams. It was noticed that experience was appreciably linked with attitude, as senior faculty responded more positively as compared to younger ones, and this finding is comparable to study done during MERS outbreak in Middle East .
The relationship of demographic data with mean awareness and attitude was analyzed and results showed no significant correlation among the demographic variables, gender and specialty. These results are supported by literature which does not support the connection of gender with the awareness and attitude of healthcare workers . Although, the correlation of experience with awareness and attitude, has been stated meaningful by studies . Our study also exhibited a significant disparity in knowledge (p-value = 0.04) and attitude (p-value = 0.015) of dental faculty with respect to their designation. Professors/Associate professors were equipped with better knowledge and attitude regarding COVID19 disease than lecturers. This can be attributed to vision and experience of senior faculty members earned through years than the lecturers who are relatively young and new to the field.
The aforementioned findings, endorses meaningful association of awareness and attitude of dental faculty with regard to COVID − 19. In light of this, it could be inferred that dentists depicting positive attitude are highly determined to gain information and to enhance their knowledge and skills to fight against disease. This can be rationalized by the philosophy of Reasoned Action, which states that an individual’s intent to a particular action depends on their attitude towards that conduct . Nevertheless, more extensive studies in future should be undertaken to explain possible correlation between knowledge and attitude displayed by dental faculty at Qassim. The merits of this study lie in its concept of addressing current pandemic dilemma and highlighting the area where little research has been done until now.
The key results of present study may be used to create awareness in designing efficient infection control measures of COVID-19. However, our study has certain limitations, the lower than expected response rate of faculty and short period of data collection has led to comparatively smaller sample size. Moreover, this pandemic has affected every aspect of life and caused many to be busy in making personal, official, and financial arrangements. This could have been resulted in selection bias and sampling error, which may limit the ability to generalize our results. Future studies are required in this context.