The recent onslaught of events concerning Ebola has my mind in flashback mode. Early in my career, the standard dental wardrobe in the mid-70s was a crisp, all-white uniform and heavy, white leather clinic shoes, which I polished twice a week. Today this uniform is considered retro. Back in the 70s, most dentists and their staff did not use barriers, i.e. gloves, mask and goggles or even lab coats. We did know about a scary health risk – Hepatitis- but somehow it was not a big enough concern to motivate dental professionals to use gloves or any other protective clothing or equipment.
Flashback to the mid-80s…. I remember it like it was yesterday, when we began wearing gloves in dentistry. I remember how hard it was to work with gloves on. My boss and I would struggle together, learning to feel as we passed instruments and navigate the gloves on, gloves off between each patient. By the late 80s, the general rule of thumb was to wear gloves if the dentist expected there to be bleeding during a procedure.
Then came a biggie. Suddenly, wearing gloves, mask, goggles and jackets for protection became important – really important. There was a frightening, new virus to contend with.
Back then it was called GRID (gay-related immune deficiency). Like Ebola today, we did not know much about this virus. We gowned up, gloved up, wore eye protection and a mask. It took a few years for the virus that caused AIDS to be isolated. We know it now as HIV. We quickly learned it was an infectious disease, and that it was transmitted through bodily fluids. The dawn of AIDS and HIV was the motivator for the dental community to use barrier protection, even before Federal and local law made it mandatory. Now, we all are familiar with the Occupational Health & Safety Administration’s “Bloodborne Pathogen Standard” which was enacted in March 1992.
And now, in 2014, we have a new challenge, as we are faced with a devastating new virus, Ebola. There’s much we still do not know. But as professionals, we are all prepared to learn, adapt and make any changes required for our health and safety, and for the well-being of our patients. It’s comforting to know that the ADA is on top of the Ebola crisis as it issues an Ebola advisory for dental practices. “The ADA remains in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) regarding Ebola and is dedicated to providing the most up-to-date information for dental professionals on this evolving issue.” Read more about the Ebola recommendations at the ADA Website here.