Mary Govoni, CDA, RDH, MBA, past president of the American Dental Hygienists Association, spoke at the Greater New York Dental Society Meeting about infection control and the risks orthodontic and dental professionals face during procedures.

Govoni warned attendees that it only takes one incident to exposeorthodontic and dental health care personnel to the hepatitis B virus(HBV), the hepatitis C virus (HCV), or HIV infection. During procedures,it is predictable that saliva will become contaminated with blood, evenwhen blood is not visible. The risk of HBV from a single needle-stickor a cut exposure to the HBV-infected blood can be as high as 30%. Eventhrough the risk from HCV or HIV is small, it rises if contact involves alarge area of skin or if the contact is prolonged.

In her talk, Govoni pointed out that orthodontic and dentalprofessionals, despite the precautions they take—wearing gloves,sterilizing equipment, washing their hands—are not always asknowledgeable about necessary precautions as they should be. Retail handcare products, she warns, do not meet the standards of medical-gradeproducts, which means that infection control in the office cannot beassumed.

Govoni advises orthodontic and dental professionals to take action toreduce the risk of infection to both themselves and their patients.