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Seeking Courage...Need Dr. Bob
Aug 16, 2004

Dear Dr. Bob:

Though a frequent reader of your forum, I had hoped I would never be writing seeking help, yet here I am.

About 1 month ago I did something stupid. It didn't seem stupid then but it does now. I was having some serious pain in my mouth and was telling a girlfriend of mine about it. She mentioned it to her boyfriend, a recent dentistry grad. He told me to come by his brother's dental office and he would take a look at it. I went there after the office was closed but apparently another friend of his had a dental emergency and he was doing some dental work on him when I got there. I waited. The guy they were working on left. I went in. He took some rays and decided to go ahead and do the required dental work.

It never occured to me to be concerned about hiv until I got all these symptoms and started to think "omigod...what if noone sterilized the equipment?" I mean, they didn't really have time to do it and there was no dental assistant there at that time of the evening. Only my friend's boyfriend and my friend waiting in the waiting room.

Given the time if took for the friend to leave and the time it took to take the xrays (i.e. before any tools were actually used on me), it was about 10 minutes. I'm praying any hiv in the blood would have died.

I've been so stressed about this that I've decided I need to just go and take a test. I know its early but it would give me some indication. All I need now is some courage. So please tell me there's no way it could be positive. I've read other posts that seem to suggest I have little to worry about but this post is my plea for as much information as possible to help me get the courage to just go and get tested.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

If your friend's boyfriend is indeed "a recent dentistry grad," you should have absolutely nothing to worry about. "Universal precautions" to protect patients (and healthcare professionals) from transmitting or contracting bloodborne illnesses, like HIV and hepatitis, have been in place for a long time. Your fears are unfounded and unwarranted. Whether or not you take an HIV test is up to you. I, however, do not feel it is warranted, as I do not see that there was any risk, based on the information you provided. Based on your "omigod . . ." response, however, I do believe you would benefit form some counseling, as your irrational fears and anxiety are indeed significant. You should be sending your friend and her boyfriend a thank-you card for helping you out with your dental problems, not accusing them of unconscionable malpractice (exposing you to HIV). My advice is simple: Get the counseling help you need, not the HIV tests that you don't!

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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