HIV transmission in dental practices

HIV transmission in dental practices

How to minimize the risk of infection

In order to minimize the risk of infection, the law states that special decontamination and sterilization procedures must be carried out for autoclaves in all medical establishments. The process involves both the instruments used and the workplace itself. The aim is to keep to a minimum the risk of infection for medical staff and consequently also for patients. Every dental practice has a special piece of equipment called a dental autoclave, which is responsible for the microbial inactivation of any residual pathogenic agents.

There is always a danger that dental instruments could transmit very serious infections such as HIV, but of course all of the measures taken aim to prevent any chance of this happening.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is highly infectious and contagious, especially through direct contact with blood.
HIV may be transmitted in dental practices if they fail to comply with the sterilization guidelines established by Italian Legislative Decree 81/2008 (as amended) regarding the protection of medical establishments and staff from pathogenic biological agents. Therefore, it is fundamental and indispensable to closely follow the rules laid down by the regulations.

Due to the nature of dental treatment, patients could be at high risk of contact with the human immunodeficiency virus, but any danger of this occurring is prevented by the precautionary measures that are taken between one patient and the next.
Every dentist, assistant and medical operator must wear latex gloves, gowns, face masks and protective glasses, which must be changed and disposed of after every patient, or suitably sterilized if they are not disposable.

This means that it is crucial to ensure that the instruments and workplace are sterile not only for the patients but also for the medical staff who handle potentially contaminated instruments and for the dentists themselves.

Therefore, proper maintenance of a dental autoclave plays a key role in ensuring that the sterilization process is carried out correctly, as the effectiveness of the machine is in direct relation to its main function and the purposes for which it is used. Consequently, at least once every 15 days, every autoclave must undergo special biological testing to ensure that it is capable of decontaminating and totally destroying all pathogenic micro-organisms and spores. Special labels soaked in a specific chemical indicator can be used to reliably assess the efficacy of the sterilization process carried out by an autoclave.

These procedures are the cornerstone of correct utilization of a dental autoclave. They can guarantee total disinfection of all work surfaces, instruments, materials and clothing in working environments and prevent any contamination not only from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but also from Gram-negative bacteria and Gram-positive bacteria, fungi, mycobacteria, tuberculosis and hepatitis B and C.