Health Authorities Investigate Dentists Dying Of Lung Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are trying to figure out what killed seven from nine dental workers who were being analysed as part of a medical cluster at a Virginia hospital

Health Authorities Investigate Dentists Dying Of Lung Disease

While in the United States nearly 200,000 people have been diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, it's a type of chronic lung disease.

In the aforementioned case, the nine patients - eight dentists and one dental technician - were referred as a cluster.

"Dentists and other dental personnel have unique exposures at work", Nett said.

The scarring gets worse over time and the patient finds it hard to take deep breaths and the lungs can not take in ample oxygen. It is called "idiopathic" if no cause for the disease is known. In many cases, people with the disease live only about three to five years after their diagnosis, the CDC said.

A cluster is a term used to define a collection of cases "grouped in place and time that are suspected to be greater than the number expected", Dr. Randall J. Nett, lead author of the study and medical officer with the US Public Health Service, explained in an email. But according to Nett, this number "was about 23 times higher than expected".

All the cluster patients - eight dentists and one dental technician - were men, with an average age of 64.

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"Although the etiology of IPF is unknown, exposures that have been suggested as contributing factors include viral infections, cigarette smoking and occupations where exposure to dust, wood dust and metal dust are common", the CDC reports notes. This means he could have been exposed to particles of silica in the air or other compounds that can have potentially toxic effects on the respiratory system, the report said.

The CDC said, "Although IPF has been associated with certain occupations, no published data exist regarding IPF in dentists". "CDC will follow up on this newly recognized cluster".

He has recommended that dental workers - of which there are 650,000 in the nation - wear protection as the CDC continue to work on their findings.

Although the reason behind this remains unsuspected, there might be certain factors contributing towards growth of this disease such as smoking, viral infection, exposure of toxic substance at the time of polishing the dental appliances without wearing any surgical mask for safety goal in order to avoid the damage caused to the body by inhaling the dust particles, as per chief policy officer of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's Pediatric Oral Health & Research Center, Paul Casamassimo, shared with CNN. Casamassimo noted that the cluster patients were all older so they were probably not abreast with current safety and personal protection practices.

"We do work with materials and with human bioproducts that are potentially damaging to our bodies if we inhale them", Casamassimo said. Though his father did not die of pulmonary fibrosis, he had respiratory problems.

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