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 expose orthodontic 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, even when blood is not visible. The risk of HBV from a single needle-stick or a cut exposure to the HBV-infected blood can be as high as 30%. Even through the risk from HCV or HIV is small, it rises if contact involves a large area of skin or if the contact is prolonged.

In her talk, Govoni pointed out that orthodontic and dental professionals, despite the precautions they take—wearing gloves, sterilizing equipment, washing their hands—are not always as knowledgeable about necessary precautions as they should be. Retail hand care products, she warns, do not meet the standards of medical grade products, which means that infection control in the office cannot be assumed.

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