Being in the dental profession can be rewarding because it allows you to help people improve their dental health for greater overall health and confidence. However, like any profession, there are certain risks that you take to provide the highest quality care for your patients. Knowing more about these is imperative to reduce your risk.
Working in dentistry involves handling a variety of materials, some of which may cause issues if dental workers frequently have these contaminants come into contact with their skin or eyes. This is especially true during periodontal and prosthetics procedures. To prevent the issues that may occur as a result of these contaminants, dental workers should make sure to protect their mouth, nose and eyes. It is also critical to wear gloves when working with patients. These should be changed and properly cleaned or disposed of in between patient contact.
Infection and Disease Exposure
Hepatitis B and C and HIV are among the most commonly discussed infections in the healthcare environment. When working with patients, dental professionals need to be in close contact to do their work, so if the patient is sick, the dental worker may be at risk to contract what they have. When looking at these biological hazards, you should consider the transmission methods and utilize protective measures against them. For example, preventing blood and bodily fluids from being transferred from the patient to the dental worker.
If patients are sick, have them reschedule for non-emergent procedures, such as a basic dental cleaning or check-up. If a sick patient cannot delay their dental care, try to isolate them as much as possible and use personal protective equipment. Other ways to reduce exposure include using caution when handling sharp tools, frequent handwashing, using rubber dams and wearing gowns, goggles, gloves and other protective barriers.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a rare lung disease a cluster of dentists have been diagnosed with. They were all diagnosed during the last decade. It is believed that those working in dentistry are at a higher risk for developing this condition due to inhaling certain dusts that occur as a result of filling compounds and polishing dental tools.
Due to new technology and techniques used in today’s dental offices, it is believed that the risk of this condition is lower at this time compared to previous decades, but it is still important to be cautious. Wearing masks when working with patients may help to reduce the risk of this condition since it decreases the dust dental professionals are exposed to.
Time Spent Sitting
When working in a dental office, it is common to sit a lot and too much sitting may pose health risks. One risk is that those who sit for very long periods of time may be at risk for a reduced lifespan even if they exercise regularly. Too much sitting can also increase he risk of a wealth of diseases, such as cancer, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
It is important to be aware of how much you are sitting and to stand whenever possible. For example, when working with a patient, raise the dental chair so that you are able to stand. This may also help to reduce how much bending and hunching dental professionals need to do.
Whether working in a dental lab or office, if the eyes are not sufficiently protected, eye injuries are possible. Small particles may fly into the eyes and cause injury. For example, when a dentist is shaping a filling or when a lab assistant is working on a custom fitted tray. If something gets into the eye, there is a risk of corneal scratches. This may result in pain, tearing, redness, headache and visual problems. Wearing the right goggles can help to reduce this risk.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Working with patients requires detailed and small movements that are repeated all throughout the day during every shift. Over time, the affected structures may experience injury. For example, the frequent use of the arms where the elbow is bent may result in tendinitis in the elbow. Carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with working in dentistry as well. This condition is characterized by inflammation and can cause tenderness and pain. Back and neck problems are also possible since those in this field are often hunched over to provide care to their patients.
Those in dentistry should keep this information in mind. Explore your workplace and see if there are things you can do to help reduce your risk of associated illness or injury.