OSHA and Dental Infection

Why is Infection Control important in Dentistry?

  • Both patients and dental health care personnel (DHCP) can be exposed to pathogens.
  • Contact with blood, oral and respiratory secretions, and contaminated equipment occurs.
  • Proper procedures can prevent transmission of infections among patients and DHCP. Source: Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Healthcare Settings-2003, MWWR 2003, Vol 52-No RR 17.

A Journal of Infectious Diseases article describes below a patient-to-patient transmission of HBV in a dental setting.

The event occurred in 2001, when a person with acute hepatitis B was reported to a state health department. The state health department's epidemiologic investigation found that the patient had none of the traditional hepatitis B risk factors, but reported having recent oral surgery. An investigation of the oral surgery practice where the patient received dental treatment revealed that another surgical patient seen earlier on that same day was on the state's reportable disease registry for HBV. Molecular epidemiologic techniques indicated transmission of HBV between the two patients.

When investigators later visited the office and monitored its operation, they found that the office followed standard infection control practices, and that all staff had been previously vaccinated and were negative for HBV. The investigators could only speculate that a lapse in cleanup procedures had occurred after the source patient, leaving an area contaminated with blood.

Infection Control in Dental Healthcare Settings have to incorporate good OSHA practices to be effective such as:

  • Preventing transmission of bloodborne pathogens;
  • Use of personnel protective equipment (PPE);
  • Address issues regarding latex/hypersensitivity/contact dermatitis
  • Implement effective sterilization and disinfection of patient-care items;
  • Practice good hand hygiene;
  • Implement environmental infection control-housekeeping and clinical contact surface disinfection;
  • Use of efficient dental unit waterlines;
  • Disposal of Sharps; and
  • Storage and disposal of biohazardous waste.