INFECTION CONTROL TIMELINE
Deadly disease discovered
CDC report identifies new disease with alarming mortality rate. No safety protocols were established to deal with the new HIV epidemic.
HIV-positive dentist in Florida continues to practice. There were no regulations on infected dental practitioners. At the time practitioners were able to continue working with concealed illnesses. Informing the public about the inherent risks that certain dentists had was not regulated.
First dentist-to-patient transmission of HIV
CDC report announces first dentist-to-patient transmission of HIV in a clinical setting. Kimberly Bergalis, age 23, died after contracting the HIV virus from dentist Dr. David J. Acer. The Bergalis case established a public outcry for public reforms in regards to the way patients were treated and how healthcare professionals should have to inform patients if they were infected. This case also sparked the need to make drastic reforms on how infection control protocols and safety equipment should be used in a medical setting.
Protective equipment becomes mandatory
Personal protective equipment (gloves, masks), and barrier equipment becomes mandatory for dentists. It is important to note that eleven years lapsed between this groundbreaking rule change and the very first AIDS case identified in San Francisco by the CDC in 1981. It took eleven years for the healthcare industry to realize gloves and masks should be mandatory operating procedure. The Dr. Acer dental scare was the only reported case during this time period. How many other cases do you think went unreported in those eleven years?
No more boiling needles
Science proved that the practice of boiling needles in water was not an effective sterilization method. Reusing of needles was also banned due to lack of proper sterilization processes.
First case of patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis CDr. Scott Harrington's office in Oklahoma is the first case of patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis C in a clinical setting. Due to lack of proper infection control protocols, over 7,000 patients were informed to seek medical blood testing to test for HIV, hepatitis B and C. Of the patients tested, 89 tested positive for hepatitis C, 5 for hepatitis B, and 4 for HIV.
SAFETY BREACHES ARE A COMMON OCCURRENCE
Scientific and technological advances have helped to create safer dental treatments, yet we still have a long way to go to ensure patients are truly safe at a dental office. A major problem is that there are still devices being used in dental offices of which we now know to be unsafe. Until the public becomes aware of the inherent safety risks these devices portray, dentistry will continue to use them.
State mandated health inspections only occur when a whistleblower or patient voices their concerns. Otherwise, a dentist, orthodontist, and hygienist are left on their own to ensure they are following all health and safety protocols. Safety breaches are a constant issue at dental offices. Around the world there are cases of gross negligence revolving around dentists, orthodontists, and hygienists taking short cuts, which affect you and your family. If we do not learn from past mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them.
What will it take to make the necessary changes? Will it take you or your family getting sick to spark change? We need to take preventive measures instead of retroactive steps.
To learn more about how serious these issues are please click on the links below.