OSHA Eyes Safety at Dental Practices

Injury of workers at dental practices are nothing to smile about. In recent years, as reported by Dental Economics, inspections of dental practices by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) are on the rise. Although some are characterizing these inspections as a means to drum up revenue, the reality is that workers in dental practices face very real hazards that need to be taken seriously and addressed.dentist

OSHA reports dental professionals may be at risk for exposure to a wide range of potential hazards, including bloodborne pathogens and other chemical agents, ergonomic risks, excessive noise, and workplace violence.

In spite of this wide range of issues, OSHA doesn’t have any specific standards when it comes to dentistry. Some of the dangers that would apply to dentistry are addressed in general industry standards.

Some of those standards are grouped into medical and dental standards and are outlined by OSHA here.

A study published in 2012 in the Journal of Dental Research looked at the numerous occupational hazards to which dental professionals are exposed. These include needle pricks, exposure to radiation (with x-rays), respiratory disorders, psychological problems, musculoskeletal issues, and exposure to serious infectious agents. One of the most pressing issues was exposure to infections through needle pricks, formally referred to as “percutaneous exposure.” Reducing these incidents involves having solid infection control practices, ongoing education of staffers, and required hepatitis B vaccinations. Infections can also be spread via spatter and aerosols.  The risks of syphilis and tuberculosis are of high concern. Dentists and dental professionals have to know which kinds of individual protective measures and sterilization or disinfection precautions they need to take to protect themselves.

There was also the problem of strained posture. Over the long term, this results in a disturbance of alignment in the musculoskeletal system, which can lead to a number of health issues.

Another issue that is less often discussed is that of psychological hazards. Stress is a leading psychological condition for those in the dental profession. There is a fair amount of research that indicates dentists view their profession as much more stressful than other jobs. Part of the problem is the pervasive perception of negativity that surrounds the field. One study in 2004 in the Journal of the American Dental Association indicated that stress for dental professionals begins in dental school and often grows from there, including financial pressures, workplace rigors, practice management pains, and societal perceptions that can be difficult to overcome. A survey of more than 3,500 dentists indicated 38 percent always or frequently felt worried or anxious. More than a third said they always or frequently felt physically or emotionally exhausted. And 26 percent said they always or frequently suffered from headaches or backaches – symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Issues with staying on schedule and time management were of constant concern. Other stressors include:

  • Coping with patients who are uncooperative or difficult;
  • Heavy workloads;
  • Governmental interventions; and
  • Constant drive for technical perfection.

All of these may affect not just one’s mental health but also one’s physical health.

Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Workplace safety: OSHA is watching dental practices, Dec. 6, 2016, By David Quezada, Dentistry IQ

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Fatal Construction Accident in North Carolina Prompts Injury Lawsuit, Dec. 14, 2016, Anderson Workplace Injury Lawyer

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