Could this lung disease that affects dentists affect you too?

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Could this lung disease that affects dentists affect you too?

Probably not, but it does reinforce the importance of personal protection equipment in veterinary dentistry, expert says.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published findings of a cluster of cases of a progressive lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis that affected dentists in higher incidences than expected, according to CNN. Eight of the 894 idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patients treated at the Virginia specialty center that the CDC researched were identified as dentists, while one was a dental technician. That was a total of 1% of the patients, which the researchers told CNN was 23 times higher than expected.

One of the surviving cluster patients reported to the CDC that they had polished dental appliances and prepared impressions without using a mask or other protection.

The report notes that the CDC was unsure what caused the cluster of patients, but recognized that dentists and dental technicians have “unique exposures at work, including bacteria, viruses, dusts, gasses, radiation and other respiratory hazards,” the CNN article states. The agency plans to follow up on the cluster of cases and work to draw conclusions about the risks dental and other personnel may have.

So what does this mean for the veterinary profession? We asked Mary Berg, BS, RVT, RLATG, VTS (dentistry), of Beyond the Crown Veterinary Education and frequent Fetch dvm360 speaker, if she thought veterinary professionals who perform dentistry procedures were at risk.

Berg thinks that the article reinforces the need for personal protection equipment (PPE). “The article stated that the cause of the idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis was unknown and listed a long list of possible factors, not to mention a regional aspect. All of the factors listed would be mitigated with the use of PPE,” she says.

“In veterinary medicine, we can add exposure to inhalant anesthetics to the list,” she continues. “In reality, the percentage of dentists affected was very small—1% in that study—and overall national incidence is unknown. The use of the amalgams in fillings was a potential cancer concern many years ago. With the average age of the individuals, this along with poor PPE could also be added to the list of factors. I'm not too concerned about an issue with veterinarians, especially GPs.”