Education + Advocacy = Change

Click a topic below for an index of articles:




Financial or Socio-Economic Issues


Health Insurance



Institutional Issues

International Reports

Legal Concerns

Math Models or Methods to Predict Trends

Medical Issues

Our Sponsors

Occupational Concerns

Our Board

Religion and infectious diseases

State Governments

Stigma or Discrimination Issues


If you would like to submit an article to this website, email us at for a review of this paper

any words all words
Results per page:

“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


Occupational risk for hepatitis C virus infection among New York City dentists.

Lancet 1991 Dec 21-28;338(8782-8783):1539-42 Klein RS, Freeman K, Taylor PE, Stevens CE Department of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York 10467. 

Since dentists have numerous patients and are exposed to blood, they are likely to have the maximum risk.... Anti-HCV was found in 4 (9.3%) of 43 oral surgeons compared with 4 (0.97%) of 413 other dentists (OR 10.5, 95% CI 1.9 to 58). Our findings show that dentists are at increased risk for hepatitis C infection. All health-care workers should regard patients as potentially infected with a communicable bloodborne agent. Comments:  in: Lancet 1992 Feb 1;339(8788):304  Comment in: Lancet 1992 May 9;339(8802):1178-9 PMID: 1683969, UI: 92079638   

Hygiene risk for dental patients


DENTAL patients across Scotland are being put at risk of infection from blood diseases such as HIV and hepatitis because of poor standards of hygiene.

Dr Mac Armstrong, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, has written to all dentists calling for urgent action to improve basic sterilisation techniques. Dr Armstrong has also written to all GPs and health boards calling on them to ensure high standards are maintained.

The move follows a Scottish Executive study which found that dental surgeries routinely failed to meet basic hygiene standards.

According to the study, three quarters of practices do not change the water in their sterilisers on a daily basis.

Half do not have a dedicated sink for the cleaning of drills, probes and tweezers, while 70 per cent have no record of staff training for sterilisation techniques. A further 60 per cent have no instruction manuals for sterilising equipment.

Deadly viruses, including HIV, hepatitis C and vCJD, the human form of mad cow disease, can all be spread through contact with infected blood.

In September, a helpline was set up for 3,500 patients of an Inverness dentist after claims he failed to sterilise equipment.

Dr Armstrong said yesterday that standards had slipped due to a combination of ignorance and complacency.

And while he stressed that there was no evidence that any hepatitis infections had taken place as a result of poor hygiene, he said that without higher standards there was always a risk of such cross-contamination.

"We have written to all dentists, GPs and health boards in Scotland to highlight the concerns identified in this study and to make clear that we expect action on ten priority areas as a matter of urgency," he said.

"It is the legal and professional responsibility of all dentists, doctors and nurses working with re-usable instruments in primary care to ensure that this happens."

The Chief Dental Officer, Ray Watkins, echoed the concerns and highlighted a £150,000 training programme which has been set up for the profession.

"We have now set up an expert group to take this forward," Mr Watkins said.

"As well as providing training for staff in their practices, it will provide clear and consistent information and help them systematically audit their decontamination practices.

"We have asked NHS Boards to provide us with action plans detailing how they plan to address any shortcomings identified through this process."

The British Dental Association said: "Infection control is a core element of dental practice and the BDA fully supports its members in achieving excellence in this area.

"We provide both written and one-to-one guidance on infection-control issues and work closely with the relevant government departments to ensure the profession has the most appropriate and up-to-date advice."

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association added: "We support the aims of the chief medical officer in highlighting this issue to all GPs."

The Executive report was carried out by the Glennie Group, chaired by John Glennie, chief executive of NHS Borders. The report was commissioned after concern in the 1990s that CJD could be transmitted via surgical instruments.

While dental procedures are categorised as low risk for such transmissions, there remains a risk for HIV, hepatitis B and C and other bacterial and viral infections.

"The survey has highlighted that the cleaning of instruments has several shortcomings and is poorly controlled," states the report. "The problem is compounded by the lack of clear instructions from manufacturers on the use of dental devices."

That could lead to disposable instruments being used more than once, the report added.

Patients warned of dental surgery health risk

DAVID ROSS, Highland Correspondent

NHS Highland has written to more than 1500 patients after it
emerged that a dentist is under investigation over claims that equipment at
his practice was not properly sterilised.
Some 954 of those who have received letters are under the age of
It is understood that John Halliday, an Inverness dentist, has
about 2000 private patients, and they will also be contacted.
However, officials stressed that any risk of serious infection
from conditions such as hepatitis B and C or HIV was extremely low.
The announcement follows investigation of allegations that
equipment used by Mr Halliday at Inshes Dental Centre might not have been
subjected to correct decontamination procedures between August 2002 and
August 2004.
Mr Halliday, a former Army dentist, is on sick leave.
None of the concerns applies to the practice of Chris Parkin, the
dental practitioner who shares the Inshes premises, but practises
Despite the low infection risk, the health authority decided to
inform patients of the situation and to provide information to allow
them to make decisions about what to do.
In addition to the letters, an NHS Helpline is also available for
patients to discuss any concerns in confidence.
Dr Dennis Tracey, public health consultant for NHS Highland,
said: "The evidence we have suggests that any risk to patients is extremely
"However, there is a remote possibility that some viruses, for
example hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, can be transmitted by blood on
instruments from one patient to another.
"In this particular situation the risk of an individual
contracting hepatitis B has been estimated at about one in 125,000 and for
Hepatitis C around one in 250,000.
"The risk of contracting HIV is considered much smaller still -
around 1 in seven million. These are maximum estimated risks - patients
who only had dental check-ups are at even lower risk.
"We have written to all the dentist's NHS patients with
information and advice.
"We are working with the dentist's representatives to make
similar information available to his private patients. In the meantime,
private patients can contact the helpline if they require further
information or advice."
The NHS Helpline number is 08000 282816.



Risk and prevention of hepatitis C virus infection: implications for dentistry. Cleveland JL, Gooch BF, Shearer BG. J Am Dent Assoc 1999;130:641-647.

This article provides an excellent overview describing the latest information on hepatitis C with clinical implications for dental providers. Published reports have warned dental health care workers about the potential risk of infection with bloodborne pathogens (including the hepatitis C virus [HCV]) during patient treatment. HCV is a major cause of chronic liver disease in the United States resulting in 8,000 to 10,000 deaths annually. The most efficient mode of HCV transmission is through percutaneous exposure. Most studies suggest the prevalence of HCV infection in dentistry is about 1 to 2 percent, indicating that the occupational risk is very low. There is no effective vaccine for hepatitis C due to the virus' ability to escape the immune system through mutations. The CDC does not recommend immune globulin for postexposure prophylaxis at this time. Prevention of occupational transmission of HCV in dentistry continues to rely on the use of universal precautions, including the appropriate use of barrier precautions and the safe handling of sharp instruments. Currently no recommendations exist regarding practice restrictions for health providers with hepatitis C.

Anti-HCV antibodies are detectable in gingival crevicular fluid from HCV positive subjects.
L. MONTEBUGNOLI*, G. DOLCI (School of Dentistry, University of Bologna and University "La Sapienza" Rome)

In the present research, as an alternative biologic source to blood, gingival crevicular fluid has been collected for purposes of assaying hepatitis C immunologic markers. Fifteen HCV EIA positive subjects and fifteen HCV EIA negative subjects have been enrolled. A sample of blood, saliva and gingival crevicular fluid has been collected for each subject and anti-HCV antibodies were determined by the anti-HCV Ab rapid test (standard to WHO 1st IRP 75/537 distributed by Thema ricerca s.r.l.). In a previous study anti-HCV Ab rapid test showed a very high accuracy and the entire procedure takes only about 3 minutes. Results of the present study confirmed the very high sensitivity and specificity (100%) of the test when applied on whole blood, while no efficacy has been showed to reveal anti-HCV antibodies in any sample of whole saliva. As far as gingival crevicular fluid is concerned, anti-HCV antibodies were detected in 12 out of 15 samples from HCV positive subjects (80%) suggesting that HCV virus in the same way of anti-HCV antibodies may enter the mouth through the gingival crevicular fluid and then spread outside the mouth via saliva. The gingival crevicular fluid could be a valid alternative to blood in order to rapidly detect HCV positive patient and the association with the HCV rapid test may represent an useful and rapid instrument to be applied in routine dental practice.


Percutaneous injuries among dental health care workers. Kerr SP, Blank LW. Gen Dent 1999;47:146-151.

Percutaneous injuries have the potential to transmit bloodborne pathogens in the dental health care environment. The risk of bloodborne transmission is dependent upon the type of injury, amount of blood, virus titer, resistance of health care worker, response to environment, virulence of pathogen, and procedure during which the injury occurred. Prevention still remains the best method of reducing occupational transmission. There are limited reports on percutaneous injuries in dentistry, with no prospective studies involving the entire dental team in a variety of private practice settings. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a difference exists in the rate of percutaneous injuries among dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants in generalized and specialty private practices. Also this study compared the number of extraoral and intraoral percutaneous injuries among dental health care workers as a whole, and within each occupational group. The findings were that dental assistants reported the highest number of percutaneous injuries. Extraoral injuries occurred with greater frequency (90 percent) than intraoral percutaneous injuries for all occupational groups and as a whole.

Hepatitis C Infections May Come From Routine Dentistry

By Kate Foster The Scotsman July 25, 2001

Thousands of people infected with the life-threatening hepatitis C virus may have caught it during routine dental treatment.

Health campaigners warned that current practices in dental surgery, including the way tools are sterilized, may not be rigorous enough to remove the risk of transmission of the highly infectious virus between patients.

Although intravenous drug use is the most common method of transmission, health workers say dental practices could be the source of infection for a "substantial number" of the 38 percent of sufferers for whom the source of infection is not known.

In Scotland, 10,000 people are known to be infected with the disease, which can cause liver disease and cancer and is 100 times more infectious than HIV.

But because sufferers can live for 20 years before showing any symptoms, experts believe that a further 25,000 Scots are unknowingly infected.

Jeff Frew, the secretary of Capital C, an Edinburgh-based support group for sufferers, said many people do not know how they became infected and he believes there is a risk of infection from dentists' tools.

His claims have been backed by Nigel Hughes, the chief executive of the British Liver Trust, who said the risk of infection from dental surgeries "could not be ignored".

Mr. Frew said "Many of our hepatitis C positive clients do not fall into any of the risk categories for catching the infection.

"Dental treatment is the only time when members of the public come into contact with blood and there's a huge throughput of patients receiving dental treatment every day. "

He added: "Although dentists sterilize their tool-heads, there is a risk of infection from the actual tools themselves, from the machinery that drives the tools. Blood could gather behind the drive mechanisms of tools, which could lead to transmission.

"In order for there to be no risk of infection, dentists would have to have two or three spare sets of tools in order to ensure all equipment was sterilized properly, and at the moment that is not the case.

"This is a public health concern of immense proportions."

According to figures from the Scottish Center for Infection and Environmental Health, 58 per cent of hepatitis C sufferers are known to have injected drugs. About 7 percent are thought to have picked up the virus during surgery, from blood transfusions, from sex with an infected partner or from receiving tattoos.

For 38 percent of sufferers, no information on the source of infection is available and campaigners believe that some people in this category may have been infected during dental treatment.

Mr. Frew added: "There are people who are infected who were not injecting drug users, who have not had blood transfusions, who do not have tattoos or pierced ears and who have only ever had one sexual partner. They must have got it from somewhere, but at the moment we do not know what the other sources are. I believe that most of them caught it during dental treatment, or at least the potential is there."

Mr. Hughes said: "One problem lies with the mechanical dental handpiece which sucks fluid, including blood and other matter, from the mouth . After treatment, if the dentist adheres to guidelines, it is flushed through very rigorously and left to rest for some time.

"It would be possible to catch hepatitis C in this way if the equipment is not rigorously cleaned and sterilized. There's always a distinct possibility, especially if the dental practice session is very busy."

However, Mr. Frew believes the day-to-day practice of dentists should be reviewed. He said: " It is up to the dental profession to prove that there is no risk and until they do we must assume that there is a risk. We can trust dentists to adhere to guidelines, but how can we keep track of how they carry out their day-to-day surgeries?"

Epidemiology of the hepatitis C virus - Chapter 4
4.2.7 Hepatitis C virus and dentistry It is a commonly believed that there are ‘large numbers of hepatitis C carriers in whom no route of infection can be identified’ (Tibbs 1995). Given the findings of HCV RNA in saliva and higher than expected prevalences of HBV in dentists, some of these cases (if this is indeed the case) may be explained by transmission in the dental setting.

There is also the question of the degree to which dental staff are at occupational risk of HCV infection. Presence of hepatitis C virus in saliva
HCV RNA has been detected in saliva in the dental setting, both with and without blood contamination. In one study of 26 anti-HCV-positive patients, of whom 11 were coinfected with HIV, HCV RNA was detected in the sera of 23 (88%) and in the saliva of 4 (17%) of these viraemic patients. The authors suggest that HCV is present in saliva in 31 Chapter 4 -Epidemiology of the hepatitis C virus less than 25 per cent of HCV viraemic people, and the virus in saliva is restricted to the cell fraction, so that saliva may serve as a nonparenteral transmission route of HCV but at a low probability, which would be increased by blood contamination of saliva during and after oral surgery (Chen et al 1995). A second study of 21 HCV-seropositive patients with haemophilia attending an Oral Surgery Unit, all of whom were HCV-RNA positive and six of whom were also HIV-antibody positive, found HCV in saliva from 10 of the subjects (8 HIV
seronegative, 2 HIV seropositive) (Roy et al 1996).

Prevalence of hepatitis C virus in and risks of transmission to dental staff
For exposure of dental staff to HCV to occur, HCV must be present in the population of dental patients and the dentist must experience an exposure-prone injury. That dentists are at risk of occupational injury conducive to exposure to blood-borne viruses is undoubted. A survey of 310 dental practitioners in Scotland found that 56 per cent of respondents reported at least one such injury within the preceding year, half of which were judged to have constituted a moderate or high risk of transmission to the dental practitioner (Felix et al 1994). That HCV is present in dental populations is equally undoubted: it has been estimated that in an average dental practice in the USA that treats 20 patients each day, one HCV-infected patient will be encountered every 2 weeks (Wisnom and
Kelly 1993). A study of 500 dental school patients in the USA found more than 5 per cent were HCV seropositive; it also found that responses to questionnaires of risk factors were not of practical value in predicting
who was seropositive (Shopper et al 1995).

Given the presence of HCV in saliva, the prevalence of occupational exposure-prone incidents among dentists and the prevalence of HCV in some dental populations, it would be expected that there would be a high
prevalence of HCV exposure among dental staff. There have been four major surveys of dentists and oral surgeons examining prevalence and associations of HCV, and their conclusions are not totally in accord.
In a survey of dental professionals attending the annual meeting of the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia, Canada, in June 1990, 401 of 1,995 convention attendees (20%) participated. Fourteen (3.5%) had markers of HBV infection, of whom one (0.25%) was also HCV-seropositive: none was positive for antibody to HIV (Roscoe et al 1991). In Taiwan in 1990-91, 3 of 461 dentists (0.65%) were HCV-seropositive, comparable with the prevalence in healthy blood donors (0.95%) and pregnant women (0.63%), leading to the conclusion that in this area the practice of dentistry carries no increased risk of HCV infection (Kuo et al 1993). Among 456 dentists in the New York City area anti-HCV was found in 8 (1.75%), compared with 1 (0.14%) of 723 controls (OR 12.9, 95% CI 1.7, 573). Seropositive dentists claimed to have treated more IDUs in the week (P=0.04) or month (P=0.03) before the study than did seronegative dentists. In this study, anti-HCV was found in 4 (9.3%) of 43 oral surgeons compared with 4 (0.97%) of 413 other dentists (OR 10.5, 95% CI 1.9, 58) (Klein et al 1991). And lastly, among 343 oral surgeons and 305 general dentists, recruited at national meetings of the American Dental Association, anti-HCV was found in 2.0 and 0.7 per cent, respectively (OR 3.2, P=0.13), associated with older age, longer time in practice, and evidence of past HBV exposure (Thomas et al 1996).

Two other studies that have included dentists along with other HCWs have similarly found low rates of exposure to HCV, even where prevalence is high in the patient population. One study in the USA found anti-HCV prevalence to be 1.6 per cent (95% CI 0.0, 3.2%), similar to volunteer blood donors, despite high degrees of blood exposure in the HCWs (Cooper et al 1992). A survey of hospital-diagnosed acute viral hepatitis in the United States Air Force staff from 1980 to 1989 found an increased risk of HCV for ‘procedurally oriented medical personnel’ (including dentists) when compared to all other occupations, but this increase was not large (RR 1.5, 95% CI 1.1, 1.9).
Taken together, these data tend to confirm high rates of HBV exposure among dental staff, but suggest that the risk of HCV infection is considerably lower: it seems to be increased with risk of blood contamination and degree and frequency of exposure-prone procedure.

Knowledge of transmission of viral pathogens among dental staff
Some researchers have investigated dentists’ awareness of the risks of transmission of viral pathogens, and their response to these risks. A survey in British Columbia, Canada, showed that many of the mechanisms, routes and risks for the transmission of viral pathogens in the dental setting were not clearly understood by the dentists surveyed, and recommended continuing education to ensure that compliance with current infection control recommendations be based on a clear understanding of the mechanisms of infection (Epstein et al 1995). The
Roscoe et al (1991) survey of dental professionals in British Columbia also assessed compliance with infection control guidelines, and found acceptance to be high, with 92 per cent of participants reporting use of gloves for all patients and 82 per cent reporting use of masks and eye protection. Risks of patient-to-patient transmission in the dental setting
Returning to the question of whether dental procedures constitute a risk for HCV infection for the patient, there are few studies which have identified a history of dental work as a risk factor among HCV-infected people. In Hangzhou, China, 22 per cent of 1,248 people with acute viral hepatitis were NANBH, and among these cases ‘seeing dentist was the main risky factor’[sic] (Sun 1990). A second study in China found that for three (7.5%) of 40 HCV-seropositive patients frequent visits to the dentist were the only discoverable risk factor (Garassini et al 1995). An analysis of data on acute viral hepatitis collected by an Italian surveillance system found that 9 per cent of all cases of acute HCV infection had only a history of dental work as a risk factor in the preceding six months (Piazza et al 1995).

On the basis of Piazza et al (1995), environmental contamination of dental surgeries by HCV was investigated by following 35 anti-HCV and HCV-RNA-positive patients with chronic hepatitis through dental treatment; 328samples were collected from instruments and surfaces after their dental treatment. Twenty (6.1%) were positive for HCV RNA, including samples from work benches, air turbine handpieces, holders, suction units, forceps, dental mirrors and burs. The authors conclude that ‘these data indicate that there is extensive contamination by HCV of dental surgeries after treatment of anti-HCV patients and that if sterilization and disinfection are inadequate there is the possible risk of transmission to susceptible individuals’

(Piazza et al 1995).

The Scotsman July 25, 2001

Being a dentist myself, I am very well aware of the spread of bloodborne pathogens in dentistry. Since dentistry was 'deregulated' in the late '70s and taken over by managed care companies - dentists have little control over clinic functions such as sterilization protocol. There is so much pressure to PRODUCE, that corners are cut by the management companies at the expense of the dentist and patient. Healthcare 'consumers' today want free or low cost health care -well this is exactly what they are getting, plus bonuses like Hep C and CJD (mad cow disease). RJ Lewis, DDS 

Hepatitis C linked to dentists 

THOUSANDS of hepatitis C sufferers may have contracted the life- threatening virus during dental treatment, health campaigners warned yesterday. It is feared current methods of sterilizing dental equipment may not be effective in removing the risk of transmission of the virus, which is 100 times more infectious than HIV. 

Jeff Frew, the secretary of Capital C, a support group for hepatitis C sufferers, told The Scotsman that of the 38 per cent of people whose source of infection is unknown, a "substantial number" could have been infected at the dentist. He said: "Many people with the virus do not fall into the risk categories and do not know how they became infected. "Dental treatment is the only time when large numbers of the public come into contact with blood. We believe that, although dentists
sterilize their tool heads, they are too busy and do not have enough resources to sterilize their tools themselves, and machinery that drives the tools. Hep C is extremely infectious and blood could get into the tool mechanisms and be passed between patients." Although 10,000 Scots are known to be infected, it is believed a further 25,000 do not know they have the virus, as it can take 20 years for sufferers to fall ill. Nigel Hughes, the chief executive of the British Liver Trust, warned the risk of infection from dental surgeries "could not be ignored". He said: "It would be possible to catch hepatitis C in this way if the equipment is not rigorously cleaned and sterilized. "There's always a distinct possibility, especially if the dental practice session is very busy"


HCV and Dentistry 

By Darlene Morrow, BSc 

The transmission of HCV can occur via improper handling and cleaning of dental instruments. Although the risk is small it is a proven source of infection (1, 2). Therefore it is our responsibility to help our dentists and to see that our HCV stops with us and is not passed on.
Dentristry has come a long way and is doing many things to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. However the HCV transmission occurs through blood and equipment not viewed as a risk may in fact be harbouring the virus. Next time you go to the dentist make a note of everything he/she touches with their gloved hands. The gloves could have your blood on them. How is the dentist going to clean the areas he touched? 
Step one: A number of studies have shown that only heat is effective at killing the HCV (3, 5). That means the autoclave must be used. Chemical cleaning agents are not effective when used alone. According to Chris Martin, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association 90% of North American dentists use the autoclave. That means 10% are not (5). 
Step two: Where possible disposable units should be used. This includes the sterile cartridges for the local anaesthetics and the needles, scalpel blades and discs for cutting tooth material, dental burrs and brushes, and the metal bands that are used to help form the matrix to place restorations which can cut into the gums causing bleeding. One study in the UK showed that of the "disposable" items that were reused by some dentists a full 50% did not autoclave between patients (1). 
Step three: All permanent handpieces should be covered with a baggie. This baggie will catch the blood splattered by the high speed drill and then can be removed and properly disposed of. The blood can combine with the lubricant and be very difficult to remove otherwise (1, 4). In one study examination of 328 samples collected from work benches, air turbine handpieces, holders, suction units, forceps, dental mirrors and burs showed that 6.1% were positive for HCV RNA (6). 
Other areas of concern: The water coolant that is used for the scaling and the high speed drill can become contaminated with bacteria. This is a concern for immunocompromised patients and neither chlorination nor charcoal filtration reliably decontaminates the water (1). 
HCV RNA has been found in saliva. There is one record of transmission through a human bite. Did the saliva carry the virus or was there blood involved? To date the transmission via saliva is not believed to be possible. 
So the next time you see your dentist make sure they are wearing gloves, a mask, eye goggles and share the information you have learned here about baggies covering handpieces. Ask them if they would like information about the transmission of HCV in dentistry. We would be very happy to mail them an information packet.

Detection of hepatitis C virus-RNA by polymerase chain reaction in dental surgeries.

Piazza M; Borgia G; Picciotto L; Nappa S; Cicciarello S; Orlando R Institute of Infectious Diseases, University of Naples Federico II, Italy. J Med Virol 45: 40-2 (1995)


The mean prevalence of anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) in Italy is 0.87%. It reaches 2% in Campania, Southern Italy. Approximately 50% of community acquired non-A, non-B (NANB) hepatitis cannot be associated with known parenteral exposure. A recent Italian study has shown that the only demonstrable risk factor in 9% of acute C/NANB hepatitis is dental treatment. There are no data on direct contamination by HCV of dental surgeries. Possible environmental contamination by HCV-RNA was investigated in dental surgeries after treatment of anti-HCV and HCV-RNA positive patients. Thirty-five anti-HCV and HCV-RNA positive patients with chronic hepatitis underwent dental treatment and were enrolled in this study. Eight had chronic persistent hepatitis (CPH), 23 chronic active hepatitis (CAH), and 4 cirrhosis. A total of 328 samples collected from instruments and surfaces were tested after dental treatment of 35 anti-HCV positive patients. The presence of HCV-RNA was determined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to evaluate contamination of instruments and surfaces in dental surgeries. Twenty (6.1%) out of 328 collected samples were positive for HCV-RNA. The positive samples were from work benches (two), air turbine handpieces (one), holders (four), suction units (one), forceps (four), dental mirrors (two), and burs (six). Our data indicate that there is extensive contamination by HCV of dental surgeries after treatment of anti-HCV patients and that if sterilisation and disinfection are inadequate there is the possible risk of transmission to susceptible individuals.

OSHA Preambles -     Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030)Revision Date: Jul 30 1999

Most healthcare workers who have transmitted to patients have several  factors in common (Exs. 6-476; 6-471): 

(1) The dentists and surgeons were chronic HBV carriers, had high titers  of virus in their blood (HBeAg positive), and were unaware that they were infected. 

(2) Transmission occurred most frequently during the most traumatic procedures. 

(3) The dental personnel who transmitted did not routinely wear gloves. However, some infected HCWs continued to transmit HBV to patients in spite of the use of gloves and additional precautions. 

(4) The dentists and surgeons often had a personal medical problem (such as exudative dermatitis on the hands), or used techniques that made transmission more likely. Several of the gynecologists used their index fingers to feel for the tip of the suture needle when they were performing deep abdominal surgery. 

Failure of gloves and other protective devices to prevent transmission of hepatitis B virus to oral surgeons.

JAMA 1988 May 6;259(17):2558-60 Reingold AL, Kane MA, Hightower AW Department of Biomedical and Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.   

     A survey of 434 oral surgeons was conducted to examine risk factors for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Overall, 112 (26%) of the participants demonstrated serologic evidence of past or current infection with HBV. Seropositivity was significantly associated with age, number of years in practice, and year of graduation from dental school but not with other variables examined, such as the number of patients seen annually or the number of patients seen who were at high risk of HBV infection. The strong correlation between years in practice and seropositivity was unaffected by reported use of gloves, face masks, or eye shields. The use of gloves and other protective devices does not appear to offer substantial protection against HBV exposure in oral surgeons, and all oral surgeons should receive HBV vaccine. PMID: 3357229, UI: 88188297   

Veterans Administration cooperative study on hepatitis and dentistry. 

Am Dent Assoc 1986 Sep;113(3):390-6 Schiff ER, de Medina MD, Kline SN, Johnson GR, Chan YK, Shorey J, Calhoun N, Irish EF 

     Personnel in the VA dental facilities were screened for the detection of viral hepatitis and identification of factors implicating infectivity. A total of 963 personnel from 126 dental facilities throughout the United States voluntarily participated in the study. The rate of seroconversion for any hepatitis B markers was approximately 1% per year. Serial positive tests for antibody to hepatitis B core antigen or antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen (or both) were present in 16.2% of dentists and 13.0% of dental auxiliary personnel. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons composed the highest prevalence occupation (24.0%), and clinical personnel composed the lowest prevalence occupation (8.9%). There was a significant association between years in dental environment and serological positivity for viral B infection. The dentists and dental auxiliary personnel had significant linear trends of increasing serological positivity with years in the dental environment. Although a majority of personnel reported wearing gloves while treating high-risk patients or performing invasive procedures, inadequate prophylactic measures were exercised for most patients undergoing a variety of less invasive procedures. The results of the study show the need for an active immunization program against type B viral infection for dental and dental auxiliary personnel, preferably before the initial exposure to the professional environment. PMID: 3531282, UI: 87009463        

Published on 11/21/1992,

TEXT: The viruses that cause AIDS and hepatitis B can survive within dental tools that are washed with disinfectant but not heat-sterilized, posing a potential risk of disease transmission, according to a new study.

The recent case of a Florida dentist who transmitted the virus to five patients ignited widespread fear about catching AIDS from dental procedures. But the infected patients in Florida got the virus from the dentist, not from contaminated equipment, according to investigations  

Viral hepatitis as an occupational hazard of dentists. 

J Am Dent Assoc 1975 May;90(5):992-7 Mosley JW, White E

To estimate the risk of viral hepatitis for practicing dentists, a questionnaire survey was conducted in the greater Los Angeles area among the part-time faculty of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. An icteric episode diagnosed as hepatitis had been experienced by 11, representing 3.9% of the 285 dentists to whom questionnaires were mailed or 4.5% of the 242 respondents. All illnesses occurred after graduation from dental school, and five were after 1967. For general dentists, the minimal frequency was 2.7 (5 of 187 in the sample). Specialists with emphasis in surgical forms of dentistry had hepatitis with a significantly higher frequency: 3 of 19 oral surgeons; 1 of 13 periodontists; and 1 of 9 endodontists. The risk did not vary in this sample with the proportion of young adult patients (15 to 29 years of age) in the practice or recognizable illicit self-injection among patients. Auxiliary dental personnel seem to have a lower risk than dentists themselves. Measures to reduce the hazard are indicated, but at present these are confined to greater care in avoiding percutaneous introduction. PMID: 123933, UI: 75152152  

Hepatitis B and dental personnel: transmission to patients and prevention issues. 

J Am Dent Assoc 1983 Feb;106(2):219-22Ahtone J, Goodman RA

      Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is considered an occupational risk for dental professionals. The Centers for Disease Control have participated in eight investigations regarding dental professionals who were suspected of transmitting HBV infection to their patients. This article summarizes the findings of the investigations, the postulated mechanism of transmission of HBV, control measures suggested, and follow-up of the dental practice for those dentists who were chronic carriers of hepatitis B surface antigen. The approach by the centers for managing dental professionals who are HBsAg positive and those dental professionals who are HBsAg positive and implicated as transmitting HBV infection to patients are outlined. If HBV transmission cannot be interrupted, by suggested measures, then more restrictive measures should be decided on by state or local health officials, or both. These could include removal of the practitioner's license. HBV-infected dental personnel can transmit HBV infection to their patients. The measures suggested for the HBV carrier are designed to allow the dental practitioner to continue practice, but, at the same time, give maximum protection to the patient. PMID: 6572677, UI: 83162024    

Cross-contamination potential with dental equipment.
Lancet. 1992 Nov 21;340(8830):1 252-4.
PMID: 1359320; UI: 93061644.

Prevention of infection in dental procedures.
J Hosp Infect. 1997 Jan;35(1):17-25.
PMID: 9032632; UI: 97184863.

Microbiological evaluation of a newly designed dental air-turbine handpiece for anti-cross contaminations.
Int J Prosthodont. 1994 May-Jun;7(3):201-8.
PMID: 7916884; UI: 95000158.

Prevention of microbial contamination of the dental unit caused by suction into the turbine drive air lines.
Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 1996 Jan;81(1):50-2.
PMID: 8850483; UI: 97003144.

Bacterial adherence and contamination during radiographic processing.
Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol. 1990 Nov;70(5):669-73.
PMID: 2122350; UI: 91044263.

Prevention of bacterial contamination of water in dental units.
J Hosp Infect. 1985 Mar;6(1):81-8.
PMID: 2859327; UI: 85183881.

May 28, 1993 / 42(RR-8) Recommended Infection-Control Practices for Dentistry, 1993 Summary

This document updates previously published CDC recommendations for infection-control practices in dentistry to reflect new data, materials, technology, and equipment. When implemented, these recommendations should reduce the risk of disease transmission in the dental environment, from patient to dental health-care worker (DHCW), from DHCW to patient, and from patient to patient. Based on principles of infection control, the document delineates specific recommendations related to vaccination of DHCWs; protective attire and barrier techniques; handwashing and care of hands; the use and care of sharp instruments and needles; sterilization or disinfection of instruments; cleaning and disinfection of the dental unit and environmental surfaces; disinfection and the dental laboratory; use and care of handpieces, antiretraction valves, and other intraoral dental devices attached to air and water lines of dental units; single-use disposable instruments; the handling of biopsy specimens; use of extracted teeth in dental educational settings; disposal of waste materials; and implementation of recommendations.


This document updates previously published CDC recommendations for infection-control practices for dentistry (1-3) and offers guidance for reducing the risks of disease transmission among dental health-care workers (DHCWs) and their patients. Although the principles of infection control remain unchanged, new technologies, materials, equipment, and data require continuous evaluation of current infection-control practices. The unique nature of most dental procedures, instrumentation, and patient-care settings also may require specific strategies directed to the prevention of transmission of pathogens among DHCWs and their patients. Recommended infection-control practices are applicable to all settings in which dental treatment is provided. These recommended practices should be observed in addition to the practices and procedures for worker protection required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) final rule on Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030), which was published in the Federal Register on December 6, 1991 (4).

Dental patients and DHCWs may be exposed to a variety of microorganisms via blood or oral or respiratory secretions. These microorganisms may include cytomegalovirus, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, staphylococci, streptococci, and other viruses and bacteria -- specifically, those that infect the upper respiratory tract. Infections may be transmitted in the dental operatory through several routes, including direct contact with blood, oral fluids, or other secretions; indirect contact with contaminated instruments, operatory equipment, or environmental surfaces; or contact with airborne contaminants present in either droplet spatter or aerosols of oral and respiratory fluids. Infection via any of these routes requires that all three of the following conditions be present (commonly referred to as "the chain of infection"): a susceptible host; a pathogen with sufficient infectivity and numbers to cause infection; and a portal through which the pathogen may enter the host. Effective infection-control strategies are intended to break one or more of these "links" in the chain, thereby preventing infection.

A set of infection-control strategies common to all health-care delivery settings should reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases caused by bloodborne pathogens such as HBV and HIV (2,5-10). Because all infected patients cannot be identified by medical history, physical examination, or laboratory tests, CDC recommends that blood and body fluid precautions be used consistently for all patients (2,5 ). This extension of blood and body fluid precautions, referred to as "universal precautions," must be observed routinely in the care of all dental patients (2). In addition, specific actions have been recommended to reduce the risk of tuberculosis transmission in dental and other ambulatory health-care facilities (11).


Although the possibility of transmission of bloodborne infections from DHCWs to patients is considered to be small (12- 15), precise risks have not been quantified in the dental setting by carefully designed epidemiologic studies. Reports published from 1970 through 1987 indicate nine clusters in which patients were infected with HBV associated with treatment by an infected DHCW (16-25). In addition, transmission of HIV to six patients of a dentist with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome has been reported (26,27). Transmission of HBV from dentists to patients has not been reported since 1987, possibly reflecting such factors as incomplete ascertainment and reporting, increased adherence to universal precautions -- including routine glove use by dentists -- and increased levels of immunity due to use of hepatitis B vaccine. However, isolated sporadic cases of infection are more difficult to link with a health-care worker than are outbreaks involving multiple patients. For both HBV and HIV, the precise event or events resulting in transmission of infection in the dental setting have not been determined; epidemiologic and laboratory data indicate that these infections probably were transmitted from the DHCWs to patients, rather than from one patient to another (26,28). Patient-to-patient transmission of bloodborne pathogens has been reported, however, in several medical settings (29-31).


Although HBV infection is uncommon among adults in the United States (1%-2%), serologic surveys have indicated that 10%-30% of health-care or dental workers show evidence of past or present HBV infection (6,32). The OSHA bloodborne pathogens final rule requires that employers make hepatitis B vaccinations available without cost to their employees who may be exposed to blood or other infectious materials (4). In addition, CDC recommends that all workers, including DHCWs, who might be exposed to blood or blood-contaminated substances in an occupational setting be vaccinated for HBV (6-8). DHCWs also are at risk for exposure to and possible transmission of other vaccine-preventable diseases (33); accordingly, vaccination against influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, and tetanus may be appropriate for DHCWs.


For protection of personnel and patients in dental-care settings, medical gloves (latex or vinyl) always must be worn by DHCWs when there is potential for contacting blood, blood-contaminated saliva, or mucous membranes (1,2,4-6). Nonsterile gloves are appropriate for examinations and other nonsurgical procedures (5); sterile gloves should be used for surgical procedures. Before treatment of each patient, DHCWs should wash their hands and put on new gloves; after treatment of each patient or before leaving the dental operatory, DHCWs should remove and discard gloves, then wash their hands. DHCWs always should wash their hands and reglove between patients. Surgical or examination gloves should not be washed before use; nor should they be washed, disinfected, or sterilized for reuse. Washing of gloves may cause "wicking" (penetration of liquids through undetected holes in the gloves) and is not recommended (5). Deterioration of gloves may be caused by disinfecting agents, oils, certain oil-based lotions, and heat treatments, such as autoclaving.

Chin-length plastic face shields or surgical masks and protective eyewear should be worn when splashing or spattering of blood or other body fluids is likely, as is common in dentistry (2,5,6,34,35). When a mask is used, it should be changed between patients or during patient treatment if it becomes wet or moist. Face shields or protective eyewear should be washed with an appropriate cleaning agent and, when visibly soiled, disinfected between patients.

Protective clothing such as reusable or disposable gowns, laboratory coats, or uniforms should be worn when clothing is likely to be soiled with blood or other body fluids (2,5,6). Reusable protective clothing should be washed, using a normal laundry cycle, according to the instructions of detergent and machine manufacturers. Protective clothing should be changed at least daily or as soon as it becomes visibly soiled (9). Protective garments and devices (including gloves, masks, and eye and face protection) should be removed before personnel exit areas of the dental office used for laboratory or patient-care activities.

Impervious-backed paper, aluminum foil, or plastic covers should be used to protect items and surfaces (e.g., light handles or x-ray unit heads) that may become contaminated by blood or saliva during use and that are difficult or impossible to clean and disinfect. Between patients, the coverings should be removed (while DHCWs are gloved), discarded, and replaced (after ungloving and washing of hands) with clean material.

Appropriate use of rubber dams, high-velocity air evacuation, and proper patient positioning should minimize the formation of droplets, spatter, and aerosols during patient treatment. In addition, splash shields should be used in the dental laboratory.


DHCWs should wash their hands before and after treating each patient (i.e., before glove placement and after glove removal) and after barehanded touching of inanimate objects likely to be contaminated by blood, saliva, or respiratory secretions (2,5,6,9). Hands should be washed after removal of gloves because gloves may become perforated during use, and DHCWs' hands may become contaminated through contact with patient material. Soap and water will remove transient microorganisms acquired directly or indirectly from patient contact (9); therefore, for many routine dental procedures, such as examinations and nonsurgical techniques, handwashing with plain soap is adequate. For surgical procedures, an antimicrobial surgical handscrub should be used (10).

When gloves are torn, cut, or punctured, they should be removed as soon as patient safety permits. DHCWs then should wash their hands thoroughly and reglove to complete the dental procedure. DHCWs who have exudative lesions or weeping dermatitis, particularly on the hands, should refrain from all direct patient care and from handling dental patient-care equipment until the condition resolves (12). Guidelines addressing management of occupational exposures to blood and other fluids to which universal precautions apply have been published previously (6-8,36).


Sharp items (e.g., needles, scalpel blades, wires) contaminated with patient blood and saliva should be considered as potentially infective and handled with care to prevent injuries (2,5,6).

Used needles should never be recapped or otherwise manipulated utilizing both hands, or any other technique that involves directing the point of a needle toward any part of the body (2,5,6). Either a one-handed "scoop" technique or a mechanical device designed for holding the needle sheath should be employed. Used disposable syringes and needles, scalpel blades, and other sharp items should be placed in appropriate puncture-resistant containers located as close as is practical to the area in which the items were used (2,5,6). Bending or breaking of needles before disposal requires unnecessary manipulation and thus is not recommended.

Before attempting to remove needles from nondisposable aspirating syringes, DHCWs should recap them to prevent injuries. Either of the two acceptable techniques may be used. For procedures involving multiple injections with a single needle, the unsheathed needle should be placed in a location where it will not become contaminated or contribute to unintentional needlesticks between injections. If the decision is made to recap a needle between injections, a one-handed "scoop" technique or a mechanical device designed to hold the needle sheath is recommended.

STERILIZATION OR DISINFECTION OF INSTRUMENTS Indications for Sterilization or Disinfection of Dental Instruments

As with other medical and surgical instruments, dental instruments are classified into three categories -- critical, semicritical, or noncritical -- depending on their risk of transmitting infection and the need to sterilize them between uses (9,37-40). Each dental practice should classify all instruments as follows:

Critical. Surgical and other instruments used to penetrate soft tissue or bone are classified as critical and should be sterilized after each use. These devices include forceps, scalpels, bone chisels, scalers, and burs.

Semicritical. Instruments such as mirrors and amalgam condensers that do not penetrate soft tissues or bone but contact oral tissues are classified as semicritical. These devices should be sterilized after each use. If, however, sterilization is not feasible because the instrument will be damaged by heat, the instrument should receive, at a minimum, high-level disinfection.

Noncritical. Instruments or medical devices such as external components of x-ray heads that come into contact only with intact skin are classified as noncritical. Because these noncritical surfaces have a relatively low risk of transmitting infection, they may be reprocessed between patients with intermediate-level or low-level disinfection (see Cleaning and Disinfection of Dental Unit and Environmental Surfaces) or detergent and water washing, depending on the nature of the surface and the degree and nature of the contamination (9,38). Methods of Sterilization or Disinfection of Dental Instruments

Before sterilization or high-level disinfection, instruments should be cleaned thoroughly to remove debris. Persons involved in cleaning and reprocessing instruments should wear heavy-duty (reusable utility) gloves to lessen the risk of hand injuries. Placing instruments into a container of water or disinfectant/detergent as soon as possible after use will prevent drying of patient material and make cleaning easier and more efficient. Cleaning may be accomplished by thorough scrubbing with soap and water or a detergent solution, or with a mechanical device (e.g., an ultrasonic cleaner). The use of covered ultrasonic cleaners, when possible, is recommended to increase efficiency of cleaning and to reduce handling of sharp instruments.

All critical and semicritical dental instruments that are heat stable should be sterilized routinely between uses by steam under pressure (autoclaving), dry heat, or chemical vapor, following the instructions of the manufacturers of the instruments and the sterilizers. Critical and semicritical instruments that will not be used immediately should be packaged before sterilization.

Proper functioning of sterilization cycles should be verified by the periodic use (at least weekly) of biologic indicators (i.e., spore tests) (3,9). Heat-sensitive chemical indicators (e.g., those that change color after exposure to heat) alone do not ensure adequacy of a sterilization cycle but may be used on the outside of each pack to identify packs that have been processed through the heating cycle. A simple and inexpensive method to confirm heat penetration to all instruments during each cycle is the use of a chemical indicator inside and in the center of either a load of unwrapped instruments or in each multiple instrument pack (41); this procedure is recommended for use in all dental practices. Instructions provided by the manufacturers of medical/dental instruments and sterilization devices should be followed closely.

In all dental and other health-care settings, indications for the use of liquid chemical germicides to sterilize instruments (i.e., "cold sterilization") are limited. For heat-sensitive instruments, this procedure may require up to 10 hours of exposure to a liquid chemical agent registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a "sterilant/disinfectant." This sterilization process should be followed by aseptic rinsing with sterile water, drying, and, if the instrument is not used immediately, placement in a sterile container.

EPA-registered "sterilant/disinfectant" chemicals are used to attain high-level disinfection of heat-sensitive semicritical medical and dental instruments. The product manufacturers' directions regarding appropriate concentration and exposure time should be followed closely. The EPA classification of the liquid chemical agent (i.e., "sterilant/disinfectant") will be shown on the chemical label. Liquid chemical agents that are less potent than the "sterilant/disinfectant" category are not appropriate for reprocessing critical or semicritical dental instruments.


After treatment of each patient and at the completion of daily work activities, countertops and dental unit surfaces that may have become contaminated with patient material should be cleaned with disposable toweling, using an appropriate cleaning agent and water as necessary. Surfaces then should be disinfected with a suitable chemical germicide.

A chemical germicide registered with the EPA as a "hospital disinfectant" and labeled for "tuberculocidal" (i.e., mycobactericidal) activity is recommended for disinfecting surfaces that have been soiled with patient material. These intermediate-level disinfectants include phenolics, iodophors, and chlorine-containing compounds. Because mycobacteria are among the most resistant groups of microorganisms, germicides effective against mycobacteria should be effective against many other bacterial and viral pathogens (9,38-40,42). A fresh solution of sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) prepared daily is an inexpensive and effective intermediate-level germicide. Concentrations ranging from 500 to 800 ppm of chlorine (a 1:100 dilution of bleach and tap water or 1/4 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water) are effective on environmental surfaces that have been cleaned of visible contamination. Caution should be exercised, since chlorine solutions are corrosive to metals, especially aluminum.

Low-level disinfectants -- EPA-registered "hospital disinfectants" that are not labeled for "tuberculocidal" activity (e.g., quaternary ammonium compounds) -- are appropriate for general housekeeping purposes such as cleaning floors, walls, and other housekeeping surfaces. Intermediate- and low-level disinfectants are not recommended for reprocessing critical or semicritical dental instruments.


Laboratory materials and other items that have been used in the mouth (e.g., impressions, bite registrations, fixed and removable prostheses, orthodontic appliances) should be cleaned and disinfected before being manipulated in the laboratory, whether an on-site or remote location (43). These items also should be cleaned and disinfected after being manipulated in the dental laboratory and before placement in the patient's mouth (2). Because of the increasing variety of dental materials used intraorally, DHCWs are advised to consult with manufacturers regarding the stability of specific materials relative to disinfection procedures. A chemical germicide having at least an intermediate level of activity (i.e., "tuberculocidal hospital disinfectant") is appropriate for such disinfection. Communication between dental office and dental laboratory personnel regarding the handling and decontamination of supplies and materials is important.


Routine between-patient use of a heating process capable of sterilization (i.e., steam under pressure {autoclaving}, dry heat, or heat/chemical vapor) is recommended for all high-speed dental handpieces, low-speed handpiece components used intraorally, and reusable prophylaxis angles. Manufacturers' instructions for cleaning, lubrication, and sterilization procedures should be followed closely to ensure both the effectiveness of the sterilization process and the longevity of these instruments. According to manufacturers, virtually all high-speed and low-speed handpieces in production today are heat tolerant, and most heat-sensitive models manufactured earlier can be retrofitted with heat-stable components.

Internal surfaces of high-speed handpieces, low-speed handpiece components, and prophylaxis angles may become contaminated with patient material during use. This retained patient material then may be expelled intraorally during subsequent uses (44-46). Restricted physical access -- particularly to internal surfaces of these instruments -- limits cleaning and disinfection or sterilization with liquid chemical germicides. Surface disinfection by wiping or soaking in liquid chemical germicides is not an acceptable method for reprocessing high-speed handpieces, low-speed handpiece components used intraorally, or reusable prophylaxis angles.

Because retraction valves in dental unit water lines may cause aspiration of patient material back into the handpiece and water lines, antiretraction valves (one-way flow check valves) should be installed to prevent fluid aspiration and to reduce the risk of transfer of potentially infective material (47). Routine maintenance of antiretraction valves is necessary to ensure effectiveness; the dental unit manufacturer should be consulted to establish an appropriate maintenance routine.

High-speed handpieces should be run to discharge water and air for a minimum of 20-30 seconds after use on each patient. This procedure is intended to aid in physically flushing out patient material that may have entered the turbine and air or water lines (46). Use of an enclosed container or high-velocity evacuation should be considered to minimize the spread of spray, spatter, and aerosols generated during discharge procedures. Additionally, there is evidence that overnight or weekend microbial accumulation in water lines can be reduced substantially by removing the handpiece and allowing water lines to run and to discharge water for several minutes at the beginning of each clinic day (48). Sterile saline or sterile water should be used as a coolant/irrigator when surgical procedures involving the cutting of bone are performed.

Other reusable intraoral instruments attached to, but removable from, the dental unit air or water lines -- such as ultrasonic scaler tips and component parts and air/water syringe tips -- should be cleaned and sterilized after treatment of each patient in the same manner as handpieces, which was described previously. Manufacturers' directions for reprocessing should be followed to ensure effectiveness of the process as well as longevity of the instruments.

Some dental instruments have components that are heat sensitive or are permanently attached to dental unit water lines. Some items may not enter the patient's oral cavity, but are likely to become contaminated with oral fluids during treatment procedures, including, for example, handles or dental unit attachments of saliva ejectors, high-speed air evacuators, and air/water syringes. These components should be covered with impervious barriers that are changed after each use or, if the surface permits, carefully cleaned and then treated with a chemical germicide having at least an intermediate level of activity. As with high-speed dental handpieces, water lines to all instruments should be flushed thoroughly after the treatment of each patient; flushing at the beginning of each clinic day also is recommended.


Single-use disposable instruments (e.g., prophylaxis angles; prophylaxis cups and brushes; tips for high-speed air evacuators, saliva ejectors, and air/water syringes) should be used for one patient only and discarded appropriately. These items are neither designed nor intended to be cleaned, disinfected, or sterilized for reuse.


In general, each biopsy specimen should be put in a sturdy container with a secure lid to prevent leaking during transport. Care should be taken when collecting specimens to avoid contamination of the outside of the container. If the outside of the container is visibly contaminated, it should be cleaned and disinfected or placed in an impervious bag (49).


Extracted teeth used for the education of DHCWs should be considered infective and classified as clinical specimens because they contain blood. All persons who collect, transport, or manipulate extracted teeth should handle them with the same precautions as a specimen for biopsy (2). Universal precautions should be adhered to whenever extracted teeth are handled; because preclinical educational exercises simulate clinical experiences, students enrolled in dental educational programs should adhere to universal precautions in both preclinical and clinical settings. In addition, all persons who handle extracted teeth in dental educational settings should receive hepatitis B vaccine (6-8).


Before extracted teeth are manipulated in dental educational exercises, the teeth first should be cleaned of adherent patient material by scrubbing with detergent and water or by using an ultrasonic cleaner. Teeth should then be stored, immersed in a fresh solution of sodium hypochlorite (household bleach diluted 1:10 with tap water) or any liquid chemical germicide suitable for clinical specimen fixation (50).

Persons handling extracted teeth should wear gloves. Gloves should be disposed of properly and hands washed after completion of work activities. Additional personal protective equipment (e.g., face shield or surgical mask and protective eyewear) should be worn if mucous membrane contact with debris or spatter is anticipated when the specimen is handled, cleaned, or manipulated. Work surfaces and equipment should be cleaned and decontaminated with an appropriate liquid chemical germicide after completion of work activities (37,38,40,51).

The handling of extracted teeth used in dental educational settings differs from giving patients their own extracted teeth. Several states allow patients to keep such teeth, because these teeth are not considered to be regulated (pathologic) waste (52) or because the removed body part (tooth) becomes the property of the patient and does not enter the waste system (53).


Blood, suctioned fluids, or other liquid waste may be poured carefully into a drain connected to a sanitary sewer system. Disposable needles, scalpels, or other sharp items should be placed intact into puncture-resistant containers before disposal. Solid waste contaminated with blood or other body fluids should be placed in sealed, sturdy impervious bags to prevent leakage of the contained items. All contained solid waste should then be disposed of according to requirements established by local, state, or federal environmental regulatory agencies and published recommendations (9,49).


Emphasis should be placed on consistent adherence to recommended infection-control strategies, including the use of protective barriers and appropriate methods of sterilizing or disinfecting instruments and environmental surfaces. Each dental facility should develop a written protocol for instrument reprocessing, operatory cleanup, and management of injuries (3). Training of all DHCWs in proper infection-control practices should begin in professional and vocational schools and be updated with continuing education.


Additional information is needed for accurate assessment of factors that may increase the risk for transmission of bloodborne pathogens and other infectious agents in a dental setting. Studies should address the nature, frequency, and circumstances of occupational exposures. Such information may lead to the development and evaluation of improved designs for