Lung Disease

Lung Disease; Inhaling dangerous particulates is a hazard of coal mining, mold remediation, sandblasting and dentistry. Fotinos Panagakos, associate dean of research at the West Virginia University School of Dentistry, is collaborating with a team at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to study how microscopic, airborne particulates and gases might be generate during dental procedures. NIOSH a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding the project.

Water with suction

When a dentist is drilling into your tooth, they’re using water with suction; so the suction system will capture most of the particulate matter. And if it does go into the air; so they’re wearing a mask that should prevent the moisture and particulates from going through, Panagakos said. It’s really all the other work that they do outside of the mouth grinding things; hence polishing things, modifying appliances, pouring and trimming plaster; also often without a suction system to pull particulates away, and many times not wearing any respiratory protection that are of concern.

Pangakos and his collaborators including Randall Nett and Brie Blackley; so of NIOSH are assessing how dental professionals come into contact with vapors, gases and airborne dusts in dental clinics. At five WVU teaching clinics and 29 private dental clinics that collaborate with the dental school’s Department of Dental Practice and Rural Health; so they will measure the size and concentration of particulates in real time during common dental procedures.

Chronic lung disease

The impetus of the study was a cluster of dental professionals diagnose; so with the same chronic lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at a single Virginia clinic. IPF is characterize by scarring in the lungs. It makes patients progressively short of breath and can call for supplemental oxygen; so mechanical ventilation or a lung transplant. It’s commonly fatal within two to five years, and it has no cure.

Sometimes the only personal protection dentists have in the lab is the surgical masks; so they wear when they treat patients. But that mask is really not design to eliminate the kind of particulate matter; so that eventually could cause this problem, Panagakos said. Whatever the researchers discover; hence they plan to collaborate with the American Dental Association and the WVU School of Dentistry to share their results with dental professionals.

They don’t want to just point to a potential hazard and say, Here’s a problem. They want to be able to characterize exposures and recommend actions that dental personnel could take to protect themselves, Blackley said. If you’re in a dental lab facility where a dental lab technician works, they probably have a higher level of preventive measures in place. Here at the Dental School, our labs are equip along those lines, Panagakos said. But if you’re at a dental office, there’s probably very little protection, if any.