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Dentist worries from the UK
Sep 23, 2005

Dear Dr Bob,

In light of the recent news that a 'bogus dentist' may have infected 500 of his patients in South London, I was hoping you could answer a question on hiv risks from dentists to try and help some of us worrying from across the pond. Do you believe a HIV positive dentist poses a risk to his patients? I recently received root canal treatment from a dentist in a high risk group. Obviously this involved the use of needles and I'm worried that he may have pricked himself before using the needles in my mouth. At one point the dental nurse did have to tell him to change his gloves as he had torn them. Do you think I am at risk and will need to test at the three month mark. (I know this may all sound a bit unlikely, but didn't you yourself contract hiv from such a medical accident?) I've had some swollen glands, but I have been checking them a bit, so hopefully it's my pressing that has caused the swelling rather than anything else. I know you may consider this a QTND, but in light of recent events it would be great to get your view on things! Hope you're keeping well, xx.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Yep, it's a QTND (question that never dies).

An HIV-positive real, as opposed to "bogus," dentist would not pose a significant risk of HIV transmission, assuming routine universal precautions are adhered to.

Do I think you are at risk form your root canal procedure? Nope, I do not!

My occupational exposure involved a significant hollow-bore needle stick and laceration while performing a procedure on a patient with advanced-stage AIDS. This situation is very different from the hypothetical one you propose.

Stop worrying! Stay well.

Dr. Bob



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