Dental OSHA Workplace Safety Overview on Bloodborne Pathogens

Dental OSHA Workplace Safety Overview on Bloodborne Pathogens

The dangers of bloodborne pathogens are very much present in today’s society. These microbes can be transmitted by means such as needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries, which could happen to people who work in many occupations including housekeeping personnel or first responders.

While many people are aware of the risks involved in handling blood, a surprising number underestimate or overlook bloodborne pathogens. These microorganisms can be found not only on equipment and surfaces but also inside someone’s body fluids – even when they do not show any signs of infection.

According to OSHA, bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries may expose workers to bloodborne pathogens. Workers in many occupations, including first responders, housekeeping personnel in some industries, nurses and other healthcare personnel, all may be at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

Transmission of Bloodborne Pathogens in Dentistry

The risk for occupationally transmitted infection varies based on the type of virus. For instance, occupational transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and HIV has been documented. This is always present in the dental setting.

Dental workplace bloodborne pathogens are most commonly transmitted through:

  • Dental spray that contains primarily a large-particle spatter of water, saliva, blood, microorganisms, and other debris. 
  • Used and infected rotary dental and surgical instruments (e.g., handpieces, ultrasonic scalers) and air-water syringes.
  • Any unfixed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) which carries bloodborne pathogens.
  • HIVHBV containing cell or tissue cultures, and blood, organs, or other tissues infected with HIV or HBV.
  • Accidental puncture from contaminated needles, broken glass, or other sharp objects.
  • Contact between broken or damaged skin (open sores, cuts, abrasions, acne, sunburn, chapped skin, and blisters) and infected body fluids.
  • Blood-to-blood contact with infected blood or body fluids, where there is a potential for transmission.
  • Splash of contaminated blood or other bodily fluids through the mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Reducing the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens

A bloodborne pathogen is any virus or bacteria that can be transmitted through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. Bloodborne pathogens are commonly found in occupations involving the handling of human tissue, such as with dental clinics which contain high levels of dangerous infectious bloodborne agents. Due to these occupational risks it is essential for dental offices to ensure that their employees adhere strictly to safety procedures outlined by OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration). Employers should do this by implementing a plan detailing how they will use medical devices controls along with work practices, and personal protective clothing and equipment training methods aimed at reducing exposure hazards across worksites where workers come into direct contact with bloodborne pathogens.

Make sure that all your dental staff are safe and healthy by putting a Dental OSHA Training plan for your workplace.

For our other list of in-house and online training, you may also visit the links below: