Hepatitis Infection Risk at the Dentist

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Dentist Infection Control Precautions

A dental office that does not follow proper infection control precautions can be at risk of spreading hepatitis B or C to their patients. In turn, they can spread the disease to others creating a much greater health risk which can lead to serious illness and even death.

infection risk at dentist

How Dental Patients Can Be Exposed to Hepatitis

The largest hepatitis infection risk at dentist offices comes from exposure to infected blood and most body fluids. With the exception of sweat, which generally speaking does not qualify as a transmission risk, blood, body fluids and secretions from patients infected with hepatitis B or C represents the greatest threat for infection. Even small amounts of blood not visible in the saliva can carry hepatitis B or C, albeit a small risk nonetheless.

The infection risk for patients comes when the same instruments that came into contact with body fluids are not properly sterilized and used on other patients. Furthermore, the dentist and dental assistants who came into contact with infected body fluids can contract both forms of hepatitis as well.

Measures Dentists can Take to Reduce Hepatitis Infection Risk?

There are several infection control measures that can be used to substantially reduce the risk of contracting hepatitis B and C at the dental office.


Dentists, dental assistants and staff who receive the hepatitis B vaccine and subsequently develop immunity to the virus are at no risk of infection. However, a person who is not vaccinated stands up to a 30% chance of becoming infected with hepatitis B from a needle or cut from an instrument that contains the virus. 

It must be noted that hepatitis C is very difficult to contract through being stuck with a needle or cut with an infected instrument. The risk has been calculated to being just under 2%, but still exists


Proper sterilization of instruments can reduce the risk of transmission greatly. In fact, dental instruments that are only used one time and kept separate from all other instruments reduces the risk of spreading hepatitis to virtually zero.

Remove Blood Pathogens from the Workplace: 

All non-instruments that come into contact with the blood or body fluids of a patient must be isolated and properly disposed. Items such as gauze and gloves must be properly disposed in separate trash receptacles designed for such use.

What Guidelines & Mandates must Dentist follow to Avoid Infection Risk for Patients?

Dental offices must employ all state and federal government hepatitis infection control standards and practices also known as OSHA bloodborne pathogen exposure control in their practices. In addition to the measures mentioned above, fabrics such as non disposable clothing worn by dentists, dental assistants or anyone in the office that comes into contact with the body fluids of a patient must be appropriately laundered each day. Hands, arms and all skin areas that were exposed need to be properly washed as well to avoid any possibility of transmitting these bloodborne pathogens.

Taking dental infection control precautions in following all state and federal government guidelines and procedures can reduce the risk of spreading hepatitis B or C to the absolute minimum and control hepatitis infection risk at the dental office.


Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS) is a nationally renowned consulting firm offering expert infection prevention services to a variety of health care facilities and organizations.ICCS can help you implement and maintain an infection control program that complies with The Joint Commission, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and other regulatory agencies, respond to situations of noncompliance, and improve the processes for reducing your healthcare practice risk.