Hepatitis C and the relationship with dental practices
Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver that can cause inflammation and liver damage. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person and can be passed from person to person through the use of contaminated objects such as needles or other unsterile medical instruments.
This can be a major concern in dental offices, where sharp instruments are used and invasive procedures are performed in the oral cavity. In this article, we explore the risk of hepatitis C transmission in dental offices and prevention measures that can be taken to minimize this risk.
The liver is an organ part of the digestive system with multiple roles, the most important of which are related to metabolism.
It participates in the storage and mobilization of proteins and carbohydrates, synthesizes some elements of the blood, a fluid which it also purifies.
It neutralizes toxic compounds that have entered the body, and therefore plays a major role in maintaining immunity.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease acquired through contact with HCV (hepatitis C virus). Sometimes the disease can remain latent, not manifest itself and progress to its most serious forms, cirrhosis of the liver or cancer.
Transmission of hepatitis C virus
The main route of HCV transmission is through direct contact with infected blood.
There are a few general, classic situations that can lead to HCV infection. Patients fall into a risk group if they meet at least one of the following conditions:
Have had a blood transfusion
If they have chronic kidney failure and are on hemodialysis treatment
If they have had tattoos or piercings and the instruments have not been properly sterilized and have been contaminated with HCV from a previous person
If they have shared a razor or razor blades with an infected person
People who inject drugs are most likely to be contaminated with HCV. Syringes and needles used by them are not sterile and their shared use for economic reasons causes mass illness.
People who have sex with multiple partners are also considered to be at risk.
In the case of liver malfunction, there are a number of signs that point the patient to a specialist.
However, few HCV-infected people have an obvious clinical picture suggestive of the disease pattern. Some of the most common signs of hepatitis C are:
Jaundice – is the yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes. The patient is pale, yellow and the general condition is altered. This color is due to degradation and deficient secretion of bilirubin.
Altered general condition – the patient’s tone is low, he reports feeling sick but cannot specify or identify the starting point.
Weight loss – symptoms of discomfort or mild pain decrease appetite, so the patient loses weight in a relatively short time.
Nausea, muscle fatigue or joint pain are also non-specific signs that may complement the diagnosis of hepatitis C.
Risk of hepatitis C transmission in dental practices
Dental practices are an environment where there may be an increased risk of hepatitis C virus transmission.
This is due to the use of sharp medical instruments such as needles, drills and scalpels, and the fact that patients may experience bleeding or other forms of bleeding during dental procedures.
In addition, medical instruments can be contaminated with blood or other body fluids of patients infected with hepatitis C virus.
In dental practices, the risk of transmission of hepatitis C virus may also be increased by using the same containers for mouthwash or by improper handling of materials used during dental procedures. Patients with symptoms of hepatitis C infection, such as jaundice or hepatomegaly, can be an important source of virus transmission in dental practices.
Measures to prevent hepatitis C transmission in dental practices
There are a number of prevention measures that can be taken in dental practices to minimize the risk of hepatitis C transmission:
The use of sterile and disposable medical instruments, as well as strict adherence to the rules for sterilization and decontamination of medical instruments.
Use of personal protective equipment such as masks, goggles and gloves.
Conducting rigorous assessments of patients’ medical and dental histories to identify the risk of hepatitis C infection.
Strict adherence to hand hygiene and decontamination of surfaces, including medical instruments and personal protective equipment, before and after each dental procedure.
Use of individual containers for mouthwash solutions to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
Informing patients about the risk of hepatitis C transmission and providing information on prevention measures.
Perform hepatitis C screening tests in patients at high risk of infection.
Strict adherence to rules for decontamination and disposal of medical waste, including materials used during dental procedures.
Hepatitis C virus can be inoculated through oral or conjunctival mucosa.
Instruments, especially rotating ones such as turbines, can spread infected organic material from hepatitis C patients over a considerable distance.
The large number of patients who cross the threshold of dental surgeries considerably increases the risk of transmitting this disease.
However, with strict hygiene, asepsis and antisepsis measures, including sterilization of the instruments used and thorough cleaning of the surfaces with which the doctor and patient come into contact, the risk is considerably reduced.
Unlike the other two globally widespread hepatitis A and B, which have solutions for immunization, there is as yet no prophylactic vaccine against hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is an important public health problem and dental practices can be an environment where there may be an increased risk of transmission of the virus.
To minimize this risk, it is important for dental practices to strictly adhere to the rules of sterilization, hygiene and decontamination of medical instruments and personal protective equipment, and to take additional precautions, such as using individual containers for mouthwash solutions and informing patients about the risk of hepatitis C transmission and prevention measures.
By following these measures, dental practices can help reduce the risk of hepatitis C transmission and protect the health of patients and staff.