Before the stringent regulations against asbestos, dentistry was placed on the list of occupations with high-risk asbestos exposure.
This situation also put dental patients at risk of contact with this material; many are now experiencing its effects decades later.
Why are dentists exposed to asbestos, and how do they unintentionally expose their patients to this material? What products do dental health professionals use that can expose people to asbestos?
How can these products and dental procedures lead to mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure?
This article raises the awareness of dental health professionals about the possible sources of asbestos exposure in their industry.
Furthermore, this article also lists products used by dentists that may cause asbestos exposure.
The dental health community should be aware of the possibility of their products and tools increasing the risk of asbestos exposure in their clinics and patients.
This information can help the industry create additional safety and preventative measures.
It’s best to remember that exposure to this asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer. Learning the different mesothelioma stages can help healthcare providers manage this disease and help improve the quality of life of people who have contracted this sickness.
Dental Practices and Products That Can Increase Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Cases of asbestos exposure in dental clinics have long been a topic of conversation before stringent regulations and prohibitions have been made against the use of this toxic material.
But, what’s concerning is the relatively long time frame between the initial exposure to asbestos and the onset of its effects on the body.
Historically, some dental products are laced with asbestos, and dentists unknowingly put patients at higher risk of exposure. Products that are now known to have this toxic material are the following:
- Dental prosthesis
- Binders for dental dressings
- Lining for casting cylinders
- Dental tape
These dental products contained asbestos during the 60s and 70s, which unexpectedly exposed many people to the material.
The active use of asbestos in manufactured products for humans stopped when industries started to phase out the material as one of the main ingredients in products.
Though asbestos is not banned in the United States, steps are made to prevent people's exposure to its toxic microfibers.
Effects of Asbestos Exposure and Its Connection to Mesothelioma
Asbestos is directly linked to mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.
However, thousands of people were exposed to this toxic material in the heyday of asbestos use. The onset of symptoms after exposure may take 10 to 60 years, but at this point, the disease has already progressed.
Asbestos is a fibrous material that is carcinogenic. When these fibers break into tiny pieces, a person can inhale its toxic powder, and the material’s sharp shards can get lodged deep in the lungs.
The harmful shards can damage the lungs' cells, causing them to become cancerous. However, this phase can take a long time, which is why people exposed to asbestos decades ago are only experiencing its effects today.
In many cases, mesothelioma is an aggressive form of lung cancer. Some people with the disease have considerably short life expectancies. However, younger people have a better prognosis, and some live an average of one year after diagnosis.
After diagnosis and additional testing, doctors can determine the cancer stage and how the disease progressed.
There are four stages of cancer, and each has a threshold:
- Stage 1: The cancer cells or tumor is localized to the mesothelial lining
- Stage 2: Cancer has spread to nearby organs
- Stage 3: Cancer has spread to tissues nearby
- Stage 4: Cancer has spread to multiple organs and tissues. At this stage, cancer has metastasized.
Other Rare Types of Cancer
Other types of mesothelioma can occur due to exposure. These are the following:
- Pericardial mesothelioma: This type of cancer affects the pericardium or the membrane that covers the heart.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: This type of cancer affects the smooth lining covering the abdomen and pelvic cavity.
- Testicular mesothelioma: This cancer is the rarest type and affects the testicles. It’s also one of the most aggressive types of cancer. Relative to other types of mesothelioma, this cancer can quickly spread.
Aside from mesothelioma, people who have regular exposure to asbestos can have an increased risk of developing the following cancers:
- Laryngeal cancer linked to asbestos: There is sufficient data that shows that asbestos-exposed workers have a higher risk of getting this cancer.
- Ovarian cancer linked to asbestos: There is also sufficient data that shows women exposed to asbestos have a high risk of developing this type of cancer.
Mesothelioma is a life-threatening disease caused by asbestos exposure, which can be prevented. Despite the studies conducted in the medical world, this toxic material is still not completely banned in the United States.
However, some bills are slowly making headway in dealing with the threat of asbestos in modern society.