Face-touching Behavior during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Self-inoculation and transmission potentials

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J Dent Hyg. 2021 Oct;95(5):41-46.


Purpose: Face-touching behavior has the potential for self-inoculation and transmission of the SARS-2 Coronavirus. The purpose of this study was to observe unconscious face-touching behaviors of dental hygiene and dental students in a non-clinical setting.Methods: Twenty minutes of archived proctoring videos of dental and dental hygiene students (n=87) while taking final examinations were watched for incidents of face-touching behavior. Data were analyzed for descriptive frequencies; independent sample t-tests were used to determine differences between dental and dental hygiene students and between males and females.Results: There was a significant difference in face touching behaviors between the student groups. Dental hygiene students (n=42) were observed 11.9 times (SD. 11.4) and dental students (n=45) were observed 8.9 times (SD, 7.9) touching the nose, mouth, and eyes (T-zone) (p=0.049). Differences in frequencies of touching the T-zone failed to reach significance between genders.Conclusion: Findings suggest both dental hygiene and dental students frequently touch their faces in non-clinical settings and need to be aware of this unconscious behavior. Given the significance of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to identify and quantify known risk factors that can be easily addressed to prevent/reduce infection transmission.