Why Are Virginia Dentists Being Hit by Deadly Lung Disease?

Laverne Higgins
March 12, 2018

The dental professionals were 23 times more likely to have IPF than the rest of the population, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released on Friday. However, all the IPF patients were treated at a Virginia hospital.

"A questionnaire was administered to one of the living patients, who reported polishing dental appliances and preparing amalgams and impressions without respiratory protection", CDC stated. Substances used during these tasks contained...known or potential respiratory toxicity. "No clear etiology has been identified, but occupational exposures are possible".

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 objective 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.

Dentists experience inhalation exposures that can elevate their risk toward some respiratory diseases related to occupation.

"We do work with materials and with human bioproducts that are potentially damaging to our bodies if we inhale them", Paul Casamassimo, chief policy officer of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's Pediatric Oral Health & Research Center, told CNN.

In theory, he would have been exposed to silica and other potentially toxic compounds.

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Older dentists usually fare worse, both because of increased opportunities for exposure and because they may have practiced at a time when safety standards weren't as stringent.

"This probably has been more common than we have known in the past", he said.

The report has been made based on the analysis of patients from the Virginia care center that discovered a higher occurrence of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) mostly among dentist. Experts still do not have a full understanding of what causes the disease, and it kills many patients between three and five years after they are diagnosed.

Overall, dentists made up 1 percent of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis cases seen at the clinic.

IPF is a form of interstitial lung disease, primarily involving the interstitium (the tissue and space around the air sacs of the lungs), and not directly affecting the airways or blood vessels. Over time, the lungs have difficulty getting oxygen to vital organs like the heart and brain. Approximately 75 percent of the known IPF patients are male, and nearly all are older than 50 at the time of diagnosis. Some patients can also cough up phlegm or sputum.

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