The generation of bioaerosols has long been understood to be an issue facing the dental profession, but it took a pandemic to cause dentistry at large to consider their implications. Through aerosol-generating procedures, bioaerosols, consisting of viruses, bacteria, fungi, blood, saliva, and sputum, are released into the air. While some of this biomatter exits the mouth encapsulated in large droplets of water which follow projectile trajectories that terminate upon collision with a surface (interchangeably called "splatter" or "spatter" in the literature), much of it becomes airborne and rides on very small droplet nuclei that are lighter than air. These are known as bioaerosols. They are known to be suspended in the air for many hours at a time before settling on a surface. This poses a risk to both patients and staff. As the world faces a pandemic with SARS-CoV-2, it is important for dentists to address and consider these bioaerosol-generating procedures as well as other sources of bioaerosols.
Coughing and sneezing have long been understood to generate small droplets (called droplet nuclei) which act as a vector for disease. However, activities such as speech and singing have likewise been shown to generate significant quantities of droplet nuclei capable of carrying viruses from the host to others. A recently published study have shown that infected individuals carry a SARS-CoV-2 viral load between 7,000,000 and 235,000,000 per milliliter of sputum and that