With a patent filing underway, the four NUS researchers want to make the Dental DART available to providers around the world.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have invented a portable tent-like shield to prevent the spread of saliva and aerosols generated during dental procedures. The Dental Droplet and Aerosol Reducing Tent (Dental DART) can be placed around the patient’s head to serve as a barrier to protect practitioners, nurses and patients from direct and indirect exposure to infectious diseases such as COVID-19. In addition, the Dental DART limits the spread of aerosols onto environmental surfaces, decreasing pathogen availability and potential cross-contamination.

According to the company, this device is an adaptation of DART, an earlier NUS innovation that protects healthcare workers when they perform procedures that generate droplets and aerosols, such as intubation and extubation.

The Dental Droplet and Aerosol Reducing Tent (Dental DART) was developed by NUS researchers (from left) Freddy Boey, professor; Sudarshan Anantharaman; Vinicius Rosa, associate professor; and their team. Photo courtesy of NUS

“The Dental DART is a design evolution, and has been prepared to protect dental professionals and their patients from potential infectious agents present in the aerosols that are generated during dental procedures,” said Freddy Boey, professor and NUS Deputy president (Innovation and Enterprise), who is the lead researcher for this project.

The Dental DART is a clear tented shield with a depth of 54 centimeters at its base, and is 64 centimeters high. Its width is adjustable to between 60 and 70 centimeters, to suit dental chairs of different sizes. It comes with three access ports, for dental professionals and nurses to reach in and safely perform dental procedures.

The tent is attached to vacuum pumps that are available on dental chairs. This system is designed to safely remove the contaminated air from the tent, directing it to the scavenging system, says the company. This decreases the amount of contaminated materials in contact with the clinician’s hands and arms, and instruments.

“It took us three months to come up with an ideal model. We had to design ‘universal hinges’ that allow for the device to suit all models of dental chairs, derive a proper design that allows foldability, as well as incorporate suitable positions for the access ports,” said Sudarshan Anantharaman, who is affiliated with the NUS industry liaison office, and a co-inventor of this innovation.

The Dental DART has been tested in a clinical setting by measuring the bacterial content on the surface of the dental chair light, and on the face shield worn by the dental. The tests were conducted before and after scaling procedures – which are known to significantly increase air contamination – were performed.

The results showed that there was no increase in the number of viable bacteria on these surfaces after the treatment with the use of the Dental DART. On the other hand, without the use of the tent, there was a significant increase in contamination by 14 times.

Associate professor Vinicius Rosa, NUS faculty of dentistry and a co-inventor of the device, said using Dental DART can also decrease the PPE exposure to aerosols and prevent further environmental contamination at the time the clinicians remove their arms, hands, and instruments from the tent.”

The four NUS researchers have filed a patent for the design of the Dental DART. They are looking to collaborate with healthcare and industry partners to make this device available to dental professionals in Singapore and around the world.