Swine Flu

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Swine Flu: Infection Control Worries Dentists

Swine flu concerns have led 12% of dentists to make changes in their dental practices, and another one in three is considering it, finds a recent survey by The Wealthy Dentist.

The threat of swine flu has put all health care providers on high alert, and dentists and dental practices are no exception. In a survey conducted by dental continuing education resource The Wealthy Dentist, 12% of dentists said they have already made changes as a result of H1-N1 influenza, and another 29% are considering it.

To improve infection control, some dentists have made changes like: more frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer, not treating patients who feel ill, encouraging sick employees to stay home, and using eye shields and R-95 face masks to block virus particles.

Not every dentist is worried about H1-N1 flu. "I'm not worried. I only treat humans," said one. "No pigs allowed in the waiting room," offered a West Virginia dentist. A Kansas dentist agreed, saying, "I think it is a bogus threat, in line with SARS and any number of so-called possible pandemics."

Universal precautions include infection control standards that every dentist should follow at all times. "There should be no concern if proper infection control protocols are in place," said a Wisconsin dentist. "We already practice dentistry under strict Universal Precautions and we don't treat anyone with a fever or not feeling well. Wash hands frequently," shared a California orthodontist.

One dentist acknowledged the role of the pandemic alert system in determining safety precautions. "At the extreme we close the office to avoid unnecessary contact with the general public. At level 5 we will be masked, gloved and eye shields at all times. Level 4 means that anyone with the hint of an illness will not be seen for routine appointments. A pandemic is nothing to sneeze at."

Some dental practitioners feel the so-called threat is overblown. "Pandemic? Give me a break!" said a Washington dentist. "More people died last weekend on the golf course from lightning!" Added a Rhode Island dentist, "With 30,000 people a year dead from the flu, the media can't get Americans to get flu shots, but they can whip up a frenzy with a new strain of swine flu. Classic case of media and politics driving public health policy."

Some choose not to live in fear of pig flu. "People catch the flu, and guess what? They can pass it on to someone else–it's contagious," said a California dentist. "I'm not convinced that the effects of this flu strain are much different than those of any other flu virus, but I am convinced that all the media attention is creating a lot of fear. I choose to be as aware as I always am of the well-being of myself and others around me, and will continue to practice universal
precautions and common sense."

"It does seem like swine flu is not going to kill us all," said Jim Du Molin, dental consultant and founder of dental website The Wealthy Dentist. "Still, revisiting infection control standards is good practice — especially if a more serious pandemic comes around!"

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