Drug-Resistant Pathogens in the Dental Office

From Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS – Medscape News Today

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Most people are aware of the risk for infection associated with
hospitals, ambulatory settings, and long-term care. But what about the
dental office? Patients who seek dental healthcare could easily, and
even unknowingly, be carriers of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
(MRSA) or another multiple drug-resistant organism (MDRO). When taking
clinical history prior to treating dental patients, staff rarely ask
about infectious diseases, and many patients who are colonized with
MDROs are asymptomatic, leaving dental staff in the dark with respect to
the exposure risk to themselves or to other patients. The risk to
immunocompromised patients could be even greater.

Amy Collins,MPH,an epidemiologist in the US
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
‘s (CDC) Division of Oral
, dental infection control, highlights the differences between
acute-care settings and dental offices with respect to the risk for
transmission of infectious agents. “In dental outpatient settings, the
opportunity for transmission is different: shorter time of patient
contact, consistent use of gloves (minimal skin-to-skin contact),
minimally invasive procedures that interrupt the protective skin
barrier, more frequent environmental cleaning, and so forth, should
reduce the transmission risks. This setting is unlikely to require the
same level of procedures/contact precautions as acute-care or long-term
care settings.”


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