Bloodborne Pathogen Statement and Policy

 

  • The dental hygiene clinic should be a safe place to provide and receive dental care. Recent information supports the conclusion that there is no significant risk of contracting bloodborne diseases through the provision of dental treatment when appropriate infection control procedures are followed.
  • The American Dental Association (ADA) believes that it has the responsibility to articulate a clear position on issues related to bloodborne pathogens and diseases and to formulate policy based on current and generally accepted scientific knowledge and accepted moral, ethical and legal imperatives. Hiwassee College supports the ADA’s position on bloodborne pathogens and disease.
  • A key element of infection control is the concept of universal precautions as a means to reduce the risk of bloodborne pathogen transmission (e.g., the human immunodeficiency virus [HIV], hepatitis B virus [HBV], hepatitis C [HCV] and others) in healthcare settings. The principle behind precaution centers on the premise that medical history and exam cannot identify all patients infected with bloodborne pathogens. All patients, therefore, must be regarded as potentially infectious. Standard precautions require that infection control procedures (e.g., HBV vaccination, routine hand washing, use of protective barriers and care in the use and disposal of needles and other sharp instruments) be used for every patient.
  • The dental hygiene clinic continues to adhere to current infection control recommendations as set forth by the ADA and the CDC.
  • Patients infected with bloodborne pathogens can be safely treated in the dental setting. Current evidence indicates that there is no significant risk of contracting bloodborne diseases through the provision of dental treatment when precautions are followed. The practice of universal precaution is an effective means of reducing blood contacts that can result in bloodborne pathogen transmission.
  • Hiwassee College requires students who may be at reasonable risk for infection to take advantage of the hepatitis B vaccine, and other vaccines, to protect themselves and patients from infectious organisms. With regard to our dental hygiene students, the American Dental Association supports having all allied dental education programs encourage the vaccination of students, faculty and staff against infectious organisms.
  • Students, faculty and staff should be alert to signs and symptoms of bloodborne disease that may be identified during the provision of dental care. Patients with medical histories or conditions indicative of infection should be referred to their physicians for diagnostic procedures, counseling and medical follow-up.
  • Hiwassee College believes that all patients infected with a bloodborne pathogen(s) should disclose their bloodborne pathogen status as part of their medical history; our students need to know every patient’s medical history in order to make appropriate treatment decisions that are in the best interest of the patient.
  • Hiwassee College supports the ADA’s decision that individuals infected with a bloodborne pathogen(s) should be treated with compassion and dignity and should have access to dental treatment. Treatment considerations should be based on current and generally accepted scientific knowledge. A dental hygiene student should not refuse to provide treatment solely because the patient is infected with a bloodborne pathogen.
  • The ADA supports the right and responsibility of each dental hygiene student to exercise his or her best professional judgment, based on current and generally accepted scientific knowledge and the ethics of the profession, in all situations regarding when and how to treat and whether to refer each patient. Hiwassee College also supports the ADA in this professional judgment decision.
  • The dental hygiene program is compliant with current CDC post exposure protocols for the management of occupational exposures to bloodborne pathogens and has established policies to ensure appropriate and efficient management of exposure incidents. 
  • Dental hygiene students, faculty and staff are ethically obligated to safeguard the confidentiality of patient records and to maintain those records in a manner consistent with the protection of the welfare of the patient. This does not prevent sharing information about the patient’s bloodborne pathogen status and medical condition with the patient’s other health care providers when allowed by state or federal law.
  • Dental hygiene students and faculty infected with bloodborne pathogens can safely provide dental care, and bloodborne pathogen infection alone does not justify the limiting of duties or automatically mandate disclosure provided proper infection control procedures are implemented. Infected dental health care workers must practice in compliance with CDC or equivalent infection-control recommendations, as required by law.
  • Current evidence indicates that there is no significant risk of contracting bloodborne diseases through dental treatment when standard precautions and recommended infection control procedures are routinely followed. Practicing standard precautions is an effective means of reducing blood contacts that can result in bloodborne pathogen transmission, minimizing even further the already low risk of disease transmission in the dental environment.
  • All dental hygiene students are strongly urged to undergo personal evaluation and assess their need to determine their bloodborne pathogen status. Those students who believe they are at risk for bloodborne pathogen infection should regularly monitor their status. All dental hygiene students, faculty and staff that test positive for a bloodborne pathogen must practice only in strict compliance with the current infection-control recommendations of the CDC for infected providers as required by law.
  • The high ethical standards of the dental hygiene profession establish the welfare of the patient as the hygienist’s primary ethical obligation. The dental hygiene student must limit the activities of practice to those areas that do not endanger patients or other health care providers.
  • All dental hygiene students regardless of their bloodborne pathogen status have an ethical obligation to immediately inform any patient they suspect may have been exposed to blood or other potentially infectious material in the dental hygiene clinic of an exposure. Students must be aware of the need for post-exposure evaluation and refer the patient to a qualified healthcare practitioner who can provide post exposure services. The ethical obligation in the event of an exposure incident extends to providing information concerning the student’s own bloodborne pathogen status to the evaluating health care practitioner and submitting to testing that will assist in the evaluation of the patient.  It is required that the student documents the action(s) they have taken in response to a patient’s exposure to blood or other potentially infectious material. Care should be taken not to include in the patient record confidential medical information about the student or faculty member, to avoid unauthorized disclosure of this information with the patient record.
  • Dental education programs should incorporate these infection control programs in curriculum content and clinical activities. Hiwassee College supports and addresses this recommendation.

 

* Adapted from the ADA Bloodborne Pathogen, CDC guidelines and OSHA policy