Objective: To determine if patients of a dentist with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) became infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) during their dental care and, if so, to identify possible mechanisms of transmission.
Design: Retrospective epidemiologic follow-up of the dentist, his office practice, and his former patients.
Setting: The practice of a dentist with AIDS in Florida.
Participants: A dentist with AIDS, his health care providers and employees, and former patients of the dentist, including eight HIV-infected patients.
Measurements: Identification of risks for HIV transmission (if present), degree of genetic relatedness of the viruses, and identification of infection control and other office practices.
Results: Five of the eight HIV-infected patients had no confirmed exposures to HIV other than the dental practice and were infected with HIV strains that were closely related to those of the dentist. Each of the five had invasive dental procedures, done by the dentist after he was diagnosed with AIDS. Four of these five patients shared visit days (P greater than 0.2). Breaches in infection control and other dental office practices to explain these transmissions could not be identified.
Conclusion: Although the specific incident that resulted in HIV transmission to these patients remains uncertain, the epidemiologic evidence supports direct dentist-to-patient transmission rather than a patient-to-patient route.