Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke, dental practices have been looking for ways to reduce fallow time in order to make surgeries safer and offer patients more appointments. But what is fallow time, why is it important, and what is the key to reducing fallow time in dentistry? Read on to find out!

What is fallow time?

Dentists perform many procedures that propel aerosols into the air – known commonly as aerosol generating procedures, or AGPs. These aerosols can contain potentially harmful microorganisms, including Covid-19, that can linger in the air and be breathed in by dental staff and patients alike. Fallow time in dentistry is the time it takes for those aerosols to be cycled out of the room (when the room is closed) and replaced with cleaner, safer air. It is therefore also the time that dentists need to leave between patients in order to safely follow the guidance from public health authorities.

What is current fallow time dental guidance?

The current guidance for fallow time is that UK dental practices should allow for a fallow time of 10 minutes between appointments based on the room having a minimum of 10 air changes per hour (ACH). In other words, if you have 10 air changes an hour, then in-line with fallow time dental guidelines, you can let a new patient in 10 minutes after the end of the previous appointment.

How can dentists reduce fallow time?

The key to reducing fallow time in dentistry is to use the right equipment in your surgery. However, when it comes to addressing the fallow time dental issue, not all of these solutions are created equal, as you’ll see below…

1. High-volume suction (HVS)

If you’ve ever had a dental procedure that involved drilling, you’ll likely have experienced the dental nurse using an in-mouth suction unit to remove excess fluid and debris that can build up during it. The device used there is a high-volume suction unit, which is an incredibly effective way of controlling aerosols before they leave the mouth.

However, HVS should not be relied on alone. Despite the fact it is able to capture upwards of 90% of aerosols, it relies on manual handling, and is therefore prone to human error. For that reason, the key to reducing fallow time is to pair a HVS with another more fool proof method of fallow time reduction.

A dental procedure performed with dental suction

2. Rubber dental dams

A simple way of lowering fallow time in dentistry, rubber dams separate the area of the mouth being worked on from build-up of saliva and blood. Less contact with fluid means less aerosol generated, which in turn can in best-case scenarios lead to a fallow time reduction of anything up to five minutes. However, as a manual solution, their effectiveness can vary. Dental dams can help, then, but they are far from being the key to reducing fallow time.

3. Cold foggers

A more left-field approach to addressing the fallow time dental problem, cold fogging machines release a disinfectant like hypochlorous acid as a mist. This theoretically lowers fallow time by removing potentially infectious microorganisms like Covid-19. However, the long-term health implications of this approach have yet to be investigated, which could lead dentists to decide to wait until the mist has cleared. Effectively, this can end up negating any benefits to fallow time reduction.

4. Air filtration

Air filtration effectively cleans and purifies the air of potentially harmful aerosols. As such, filtration units can seem the obvious answer when weighing up how to reduce fallow time in dentistry. The big problem with air filtration systems is they rely on aerosol being propelled into the air and then effectively hoovered back out of it, which can lead to some time where those potentially harmful particulates are in the breathing zone and can enter the lungs.

That’s a far cry from HVS as mentioned above, and from what we believe is the BEST WAY to reduce fallow time in dentistry…

5. A better way: Local exhaust ventilation (LEV)

A VODEX DentalAIR UVC® in a surgery settingThe real answer to how to reduce fallow time in dentistry, local exhaust ventilation removes potentially harmful aerosols thrown up by dental AGPs at the source – the opening of the patient’s mouth – before they can enter the wider atmosphere of the room.

Because of this, an effective dental LEV system can almost entirely do away with the need for air changes that health authorities currently require in dental settings. (If there are no harmful aerosols in the air, then logic says you don’t need to worry about air changes to remove them!).

A recent peer-reviewed study by researchers at Newcastle University proved unequivocally that our own VODEX DentalAIR UVC® LEV system can prevent up to 99% of aerosols from entering the breathing zone. Paired with high-volume dental suction, the VODEX DentalAIR UVC® is THE BEST WAY to reduce fallow time in dentistry – and a vital piece of equipment that all dental practices should own.

Want to reduce fallow time in your dental surgery?

Read the posts below to find out more about the DentalAIR UVC® being the key to reducing fallow time and keeping your business COSHH compliant, then get your DentalAIR UVC® here – or get in touch with us to find out more.


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