Infection prevention in dentistry is an important topic that has gained more interest in recent years and guidelines for the prevention of cross-transmission are common practice in many countries. However, little is known about the real risks of cross-transmission, specifically in the dental healthcare setting. This paper evaluated the literature to determine the risk of cross-transmission and infection of viruses and bacteria that are of particular relevance in the dental practice environment. Facts from the literature on HSV, VZV, HIV, Hepatitis B, C and D viruses, Mycobacterium spp., Pseudomonas spp., Legionella spp. and multi-resistant bacteria are presented. There is evidence that Hepatitis B virus is a real threat for cross-infection in dentistry. Data for the transmission of, and infection with, other viruses or bacteria in dental practice are scarce. However, a number of cases are probably not acknowledged by patients, healthcare workers and authorities. Furthermore, cross-transmission in dentistry is under-reported in the literature. For the above reasons, the real risks of cross-transmission are likely to be higher. There is therefore a need for prospective longitudinal research in this area, to determine the real risks of cross-infection in dentistry. This will assist the adoption of effective hygiene procedures in dental practice.
Keywords: bacteria; cross-infection; cross-transmission; dentistry; healthcare-associated infections; viruses.