March 9, 2018, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) focused on a cluster of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) occurring in dental professionals. Seven of the nine patients in the study died of the disease. And while nine may not sound like a high number, it indicates that the risk of developing IPF is 23 times higher in dentists than would be expected. IPF is a chronic, progressive lung disease.
According to the CDC’s report, Dental Personnel Treated for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis at a Tertiary Care Center — Virginia, 2000–2015, of the 894 IPF patients treated at the center from September 1996 through June 2017, nine were dental professionals. That includes eight dentists and one dental technician. Seven of the nine died, and of the two surviving patients, only one was available for interview by the researchers.
The patient who was interview reported the following:
- Practiced dentistry for 40 years
- Did not wear a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-certified respirator during any of that time
- Did wear a surgical mask for the last 20 years
- Dental activities included polishing dental appliances, preparing amalgams and impressions, and developing x-rays using film developing solutions
- Intermittently exposed to dust from Caribbean coral beaches for 15 years while travelling as a practicing dentist
- Three months exposure to dust as a street sweeper, prior to dental school
- Never smoked
According to lead study author Dr. Randall Nett, dental professionals are exposed to a variety of respiratory hazards at work, including dust gases radiation, bacteria, viruses and other hazards, but they do not know what caused this cluster of IPF cases. More research is needed to determine if and how work-related exposures for dental personnel are associated with developing IPF.
If you believe that your illness was caused by exposure to toxic substances, please talk to an experienced dangerous products attorney right away to learn more about your rights and potential compensation.