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    The dangers of STDs in the dental practice

    What every dental professional needs to know about contracting STDs in the dental practice.

    Many dental professionals think that if they refrain from unprotected sex with an infected person at the dental office, they are safe from contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) there. But they are wrong.

    The fact is you could contract a number of STDs at your office without engaging in sexual contact, including:

    ·      Hepatitis B (HBV)

    ·      Hepatitis C (HCV)

    ·      Herpes Simplex 2 (HSV2)

    ·      Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

    ·      Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

    Infections can occur through exposure to an infected person’s blood, which can occur through splashes to unprotected eyes, nose or mouth, as well as percutaneous injuries. In the case of HSV2 and HPV, infections can occur through exposure to an infected person’s saliva. In addition, you could sustain exposure to many viruses including the other human herpes viruses (there are eight in all), influenza and Epstein-Barr. You could even end up exposed to diseases like measles, mumps, rubella and polio—and this list is far from comprehensive.

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    The fact is you could be exposed to all kinds of bacterium, viruses and other microorganisms that cause disease in the dental office.

    Or you could be exposed if you don’t take the universal precautions as specified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the standard precautions by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

    Dr. David Reznik, DDS, is the founder and President of  HIVdent, a nonprofit organization assuring that people living with HIV disease have access to quality dental care. Per Dr. Reznik, OSHA’s universal precautions (or standard precautions per the CDC) provide all the protection you need from these dangerous and contagious diseases people bring into the operatory.

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    “Unless you sleep with the patient without any protection, you're not going to get syphilis or gonorrhea or HIV or any of those diseases that can be sexually transmitted. So, it's a matter of following the safest dental visit practices,” Dr. Reznik says.

    However, the concerns for exposure to these conditions doesn’t stop in the operatory. Dental laboratories should also employ OSHA’s universal precautions to protect themselves from contracting STDs in the lab.

    “The dental laboratory owner must protect his workers by using universal precautions. The same processes and equipment would be used in the manufacture of the dental device regardless of the patient’s medical condition,” explains Mary Borg-Bartlett, President of SafeLink Consulting Inc., a regulatory compliance consulting firm that helps clients meet safety requirements set forth by OSHA.


    Next: Why you should practice as if all patients are infectious...


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