Purpose: To assess the occupational risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among dental personnel.
Methods: Three hundred forty-three oral surgeons and 305 general dentists were recruited at national meetings of the American Dental Association and matched by gender, age, years of practice, and location of practice. Each participant completed a detailed questionnaire designated to measure occupational risk of blood-borne infections and supplied a sample of blood. Antibodies to HCV (anti-HCV) were assessed by second-generation enzyme immunoassay and recombinant immunoblot assay. As a marker of occupational exposure to blood-borne viruses, hepatitis B virus (HBV) surface antigen and antibodies to HBV surface and core antigens were measured by enzyme immunoassay.
Results: Anti-HCV was found in 2.0% of oral surgeons and 0.7% of general dentists (odds ratio [OR] = 3.2, P = 0.133). Anti-HCV was more prevalent (P < 0.01) in dental personnel who were older, had more years of practice, and had serologic markers of HBV infection. Serologic markers of HBV infection were found in 7.8% of general dentists and 21.2% of oral surgeons (OR 3.1, P < 0.001).
Conclusions: These data confirm high rates of HBV infection among dental personnel, but suggest that the risk of HCV infection is considerably lower.