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Infectious Diseases

I.D. Procedures/Dentists

12/05/2003

Question:

At a recent visit to my dentist`s office for my 6 month exam, the dentist, who had latex gloves on, used his fingers inside my mouth to hook and pull my cheek out to see the sides of my teeth with his mirror and pick. He then pulled his pen out of his shirt pocket and wrote his findings on my dental record several times. My question is this: if he has used that pen with my saliva on it from his gloves (and I presume he used it on others prior to me) -- doesn`t that break the chain of infectious disease protection to the patient from one patient to another? If so, assuming bodily fluids (saliva) may have dryed on his pen (maybe), does that mitigate the risk.?With all the hepatitis "A" concerns from a Chi- Chi`s restaurant in the area (550 people infected, 3 deaths), how concerned should I be and if this is a "significant" problem, how do I approach it with the dentist. And, lastly, is it enough of a concern that I need to do anything in order to protect myself at this point to any exposure possibilities?

Thank you very much for your assistance.

Answer:

This may not be the best technique, but the risk to you is extremely low. 

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Response by:

Amy Beth Kressel, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati