Something mysterious is happening to US dentists. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has found a pattern of American dentists dying from the lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The reason why remains unknown.
According to the CDC, nine dentists or dental workers have so far been diagnosed with the disease, called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, all of whom were hospitalized at the same specialty clinic in Virginia.
The disease is often fatal: of the nine cases, seven have died, the report said. This number may not seem significant, but it’s nonetheless 1 percent of the total number of people affected by the disease. Furthermore, according to the CDC, “although IPF has been associated with certain occupations, no published data exist regarding IPF in dentists.”
One possible cause of the problem is the fact that the dentists may not wear protective gear while using chemicals and dental appliances that might affect the lung.
“The living patient who was interviewed reported occupational exposures to known respiratory hazards (e.g., silica) yet did not wear National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-certified respiratory protection. It is possible other patients in this case series had similar experiences,” the CDC says.
Dental personnel who perform tasks that result in occupational exposures to known respiratory hazards should wear adequate respiratory protection if other controls (e.g., improved ventilation) are not practical or effective.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is part of the larger family of interstitial lung diseases. It causes progressive and irreversible lung scarring for reasons that are still poorly understood. The word idiopathic refers to the fact that we do not know the causes of this disease. IFP accounts for about 50% of all types of pulmonary fibrosis diagnosed.
“Although the etiology of IPF is unknown, exposures that have been suggested as contributing factors include viral infections, cigarette smoking and occupations where exposure to dust, wood dust and metal dust are common,” the CDC ‘sreport notes.