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The CDC warned in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that dentists may be at significantly higher risk for developing idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, compared to the general population.
In a sample of 894 patients with IPF with records over 20 years at a Virginia specialty clinic, CDC discovered that 8 dentists (and one dental technician) represented 1% of the total sample. Dentists make up 0.04 - 0.06% of the U.S. population, so this was about a 20-fold increase in predicted IPF prevalence.
Subsequent national database queries also suggested dentists were at increased risk for IPF, although not to the degree noted in the Virginia clinic.
IPF has not been previously described as being more common among dental personnel.
As to etiology,
A questionnaire was administered to one of the living patients, who reported polishing dental appliances and preparing amalgams and impressions without respiratory protection,” CDC said. “Substances used during these tasks contained…known or potential respiratory toxicity.Dentists and other dental personnel experience unique occupational exposures, including exposure to infectious organisms, dusts, gases, and fumes. Although no clear etiologies for this cluster exist, occupational exposures possibly contributed.”
CDC stopped short of labeling dentistry as an occupational risk factor for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, but did advise,
Further investigation of the risk for dental personnel and IPF is warranted to develop strategies for prevention of potentially harmful exposures."