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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 32  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 275
Omicron! Alert for dental surgeons

Executive Editor, Indian Journal of Dental Research, Director and Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Balaji Dental and Craniofacial Hospital, Teynampet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

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Date of Submission05-Jan-2022
Date of Acceptance16-Jan-2022
Date of Web Publication23-Feb-2022

How to cite this article:
Balaji S M. Omicron! Alert for dental surgeons. Indian J Dent Res 2021;32:275

How to cite this URL:
Balaji S M. Omicron! Alert for dental surgeons. Indian J Dent Res [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 16];32:275. Available from:

It has been two years since the spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. There have been a few major waves of infection. Each of these waves had been triggered by variants of the original virus. The medical, scientific, governmental, civil societies and public health communities respond varyingly to new viral genetic variants. Each such wave triggered calls to either “stay calm” or pursue immediate countermeasures.[1] As the biology of each wave of infection differs widely, the impact on high aerosol exposure and contact-risk professions such as dentistry face the wrath and uncertainties of each spread.[2],[3]

The basics of these new variants are mutation, variant and strain.[1]

  • Mutation refers to the actual change in sequence and arises as a natural by-product of viral replication. Coronaviruses have fewer mutations as they encode an enzyme that self-corrects “errors” made during replication, thereby avoiding these mutations. If mutations cross this surveillance, as determined by natural selection, it may render a possible competitive advantage in terms of viral replication, transmission or escape from immunity.[1]
  • SARS-CoV-2 genomes that differ in sequence, as compared to predecessors, are often called variants. This difference can be one mutation or many.[1]
  • Each variant is a strain when it has demonstrably different phenotypes, possibly impacting the infectivity, spread and treatment.[1]

The recent identification of OMICRON, a rapidly spreading variant, is a cause of concern for dentistry. This is a COVID-19 mutated variant, B.1.1.529, first reported in parts of South Africa. It rapidly became the dominant COVID-19 variant.[4] Several countries, including the United Kingdom, have reported rapid spread and low case doubling time-period.[5]

The rapidity of spread in the community is the cause of concern for dentists. At this stage, as the natural history of this variant is not all known, effective precautionary measures including masking, social distancing and vaccination have to be strictly followed. Dental professionals should make every sincere effort to monitor and keep a check on their patients for any possible symptoms of the new infection pattern.[2]

It must be remembered here that it was an alert Indian dentist who examined a 12-year-old girl, otherwise asymptomatic, for a toothache insisted on an RT-PCR negative certificate due to overseas travel history. The patient was COVID-19 positive, and on subsequent genome sequencing, it was identified as a case of Omicron variant, the first in India. Other family members who were tested negative for COVID-19 on arrival were found to be infected in later tests.[6] This event that unfolded in the recent past highlights the need for a dentist to be alert and proceed systematically. The delay in identification could have led to a cluster and possible huge, silent spread.

Though there are many positive indicators of pharmacological agents for COVID-19 now with effectiveness demonstrated, the impact of the infection as a public health challenge remains.[7] Dentists need to be alert as always to combat the spread of oropharyngeal infections by following recommended procedures.

   References Top

Lauring AS, Hodcroft EB. Genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2—What do they mean? JAMA 2021;325:529-31.  Back to cited text no. 1
Balaji S. COVID-19—Future of dentistry. Indian J Dent Res 2020;31:167-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Balaji SM. Long COVID-19 and dental treatment. Indian J Dent Res 2021;32:139.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Tong C, Shi W, Zhang A, Shi Z. Tracking and controlling the spatiotemporal spread of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant in South Africa. Travel Med Infect Dis 2021;46:102252. doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid. 2021.102252.  Back to cited text no. 4
Torjesen I. Covid restrictions tighten as omicron cases double every two to three days. BMJ 2021;375:n3051.  Back to cited text no. 5
Law S. Possible western and Chinese medicines for “Omicron”. Microbes Infect Dis 2021. doi: 10.21608/mid. 2021.110235.1216.  Back to cited text no. 7

Correspondence Address:
S M Balaji
Executive Editor, Indian Journal of Dental Research, Director and Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Balaji Dental and Craniofacial Hospital, Teynampet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijdr.IJDR_5_22

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