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J Public Health Dent. 1988 Spring;48(2):68-73.

AIDS and dental practice.

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Department of Dental Public Health and Hygiene, School of Dentistry, University of California, San Francisco 94143.


Dental health care workers (DHCWs) can provide important diagnostic, treatment, and referral services for patients with AIDS and at risk for AIDS. They also have a responsibility to protect all patients in their practices, and themselves, from infectious disease transmission through the use of infection control. To determine the extent to which DHCWs are prepared to assume these responsibilities, a randomized survey of California DHCWs was conducted. Responses were obtained from 297 dentists, 128 hygienists, and 177 dental assistants. DHCWs who expressed a greater willingness to treat people with AIDS or HIV infection also practiced more thorough infection control. Respondents in all groups who perceived a greater percent of their patients to be at risk for AIDS were more likely to use infection control procedures (P less than .0001). They also were more willing to treat such patients (P less than .004) and were more likely to assess patients for AIDS by taking a thorough medical history (P less than .02) and sexual history (P less than .04). Since attitudes toward AIDS and perception of the percent of patients at risk in one's practice affect patient assessment and infection control procedures used by dental health care workers, educational programs designed to enhance DHCWs' response to the HIV epidemic should alert them to the extent of the problem and help them cope with their concerns.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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