According to Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the US centers for Disease Control and Prevention a group of cases with Progressive Lung Disease have been reported at Virginia Care center in Dentists and dental workers. The patients who reported have been were diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis which is a chronic progressive lung disease which is said to be having poor prognosis.
Dr. Randall J. Nett, lead author of the study and medical officer with the US Public Health Service, said in an email about the cluster or collection of cases as “grouped in place and time that are suspected to be greater than the number expected. Among the cluster of patients – 8 dentists and one dental technician were men having an average age of 64 years. The exact reason has not been identified and according to Nett and his colleagues it is expected to be due to occupational exposure
Nett said, “Dentists and other dental personnel have unique exposures at work, these exposures include bacteria, viruses, dusts, gases, radiation and other respiratory hazards”. Among the 894 patients treated for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at the Virginia hospital, nine patients or 1% were dentists or dental technicians, this number is 23 times higher than any other profession.
Some of the dental technicians who were identified from the cluster were known to be polishing dental appliances which are high in silica without wearing any masks or other protection. Along with Silica there can be other particles as well which might be inhaled and lead to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Nett has has recommended “wear certified respiratory protection, as this time we do not know what caused this cluster of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis cases in dental personal”.
It is clear that Dentists and Dental personnel have been exposed to plaster and dust from drilling, in addition to the toxic substances listed in the report. It is clear from the report that most patients reported were of older age and might not have used proper protection or followed modern protection protocols needed to protect form such particles.
Dr. Paul Casamassimo, chief policy officer of the American Academy of PEdiatric Dentistry’s Pediatric Oral health & Research Center, said, “the report is not surprising and mentioned that we do work with materials and human byproducts which are potentially damaging to our bodies when we inhale them”. The modern day dental personal are trained differently and the safety norms are high, we require protections from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The Dentists who were diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis have reported that they have been in contact or exposed to materials which are a respiratory hazard and have not followed or wore any National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-certified respiratory protection.
Dr. Casamassimo also mentioned that his father was also a dental professional and dies at 79 due to respiratory problems. So the threat is real and for every Dental Professional who is exposed to these hazardous materials needs to follow certain protocols to prevent respiratory problems from arising.