Preventing Transmission of Blood-borne Pathogens

Transmission of blood-borne pathogens in dental healthcare settings is extremely rare. They are, however, possible. Since the transmission of these pathogens is an extremely serious matter, care must be taken so as not to transmit these pathogens. The exposure to infected blood can result in transmission from:
• Patient to DHCP
• DHCP to patient
• One patient to another

Among all the three opportunities for transmission, it is the DHCP who has the greatest risk of infection because of frequency of encountering patient blood and blood-contaminated saliva during dental procedures.

On the other hand, blood-borne viral transmission from DHCP to the patient the DHCP must:
• Be viremic – have the virus circulating in his blood
• Be injured (open wound or ulcers) or have a condition that allows direct exposure to their blood or other infectious body fluids
• Enable their blood or infectious body fluid to gain direct access to a patient’s wound, traumatized tissue, mucous membranes or similar portal of entry

Although an infected DHCP might be viremic, unless the second and third conditions are also met, transmission cannot occur.

The risk of occupational exposure to blood-borne viruses is largely determined by their prevalence in the patient population and the nature and frequency of contact with blood and body fluids through percutaneous or permucosal routes of exposure. The risk of infection after exposure to a blood-borne virus is influenced by inoculum size, route of exposure, and susceptibility of the exposed HCP. The majority of attention has been placed on the bloodborne pathogens HBV, HCV and HIV, and these pathogens present different levels of risk to DHCP.

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