By Rupesh Dutta, New Delhi, Aug 31 IANS | 3 months ago

Is your dental clinic HIV and Hepatitis proof?

Better find out soon or you might meet the same fate as 32-year-old Arnold Zakaria, who developed swellings in his throat glands and armpits after being treated for a dental cavity. Repeated use of improperly sterilized instruments by his dentist led to this severe infection which resulted in bouts of fever, loss of appetite, fatigue and joint pain.

He was soon diagnosed with Hepatitis B but that was not all. He was also asked to undergo an HIV test after red rashes appeared on his body.

"I have been taking medication now for long, but I was clearly told by doctors that there are high chances that the swellings would spread to my genitals," Zakaria told IANS.

Concerned about the increasing number of cases where patients undergoing dental treatments are detected with HIV and Hepatitis, medical experts caution that patients must ensure that the doctor open the examination instruments from a sterilized pouch in their presence.

Sheetal Kapil, dental surgeon at Axiss Dental Clinic, said that the dental instruments are potential weapons to transmit these diseases, if they are not properly sterilized.

"Dental clinics have high prevalence of patient-to-equipment contacts. Sterilization of equipment and instruments thus gains a lot of importance at the clinics to keep infections at bay," Kapil told IANS.

She said in clinics where sterilization is not properly taken care of, HIV and Hepatitis could spread among the patients from saliva, blood remnants on instruments or through contact with infected blood.

"It is important for the patients to notice that the critical dental instruments like needle tips and BP blades, scalpels, bone chisel and surgical burs are sterilized.

"They penetrate tissues and come in contact with the bloodstream. It is highly critical to sterilize them after every use by steam heating, dry heat or chemical vapour," Kapil said.

"Even the semi-critical and non-critical instruments like the X-ray heads, pulse oximeters and blood pressure cuffs should be sterilized and cleaned with disinfectants as they come in contact with the skin and so become a source of infection," she added.

According to the guidelines of the union health ministry, every dental clinic, whether private or government, has to follow the same standards in

the sterilization and disinfecting of equipment used.

Alankrita Chaudhary, assistant professor of dentistry at Greater Noida's Sardha Hospital, said: "It is mandatory for all the dental practitioners to clean and heat-sterilize critical dental instruments before using them on patients."

She said that even the norms set by the US-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), whose norms are followed by dentists world-wide make it mandatory to implement measures to contain infection.

However, dental experts said that the international standards set are so stringent that many of the dental clinics in India are not able to comply with them.

O.P. Kharbanda, professor and head of orthodontics department, Centre for Dental Education and Research at the All India Institute and Medical Sciences,

said: "Many of the norms set by the international health organisations are so stringent that dental clinics are not able to follow them. To make them effective, the norms need to be made more practical."

"The best one can do is that the dentist can immunize every patient and even clinic staff with Hepatitis B vaccine," Kharbanda told IANS.

According to Sageer Azaz, head of the dental department at Gurgaon-based Paras Hospital: "As the incubation periods of HIV and Hepatitis are long, the patients should go to a doctor if they come across any symptoms of the disease."

"Dental clinics need to note that sterilization is a process without which they cannot function," he said.

(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at rupesh.d@ians.in)

(Posted on 31-08-2014)

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