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A Journal on Dentistry and Maxillofacial Surgery
Minerva Stomatologica 2004 July-August;53(7-8):389-402
language: English, Italian
The challenge of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in dentistry
Testarelli L., D'Aversa L., Dolci G.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is caused by a newly identified coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) that appears to be transmitted primarily through droplets of saliva. This is the reason why the most important international organizations recommend that the dentists adopt a unique preventive approach to the problem: SARS patients should not be treated in the dental office. This is possible only if a suspected case of SARS is correctly and promptly identified. But a correct identification is made difficult by several factors, such as the incubation period, a possibly asymptomatic onset of the illness, the still low specificity and sensitivity of laboratory and instrumental tests. A case or suspected case of SARS may thus unwillingly be treated at the dental office. It is therefore necessary to adopt protective measures for the dental personnel and to implement and enforce infection control measures in order to eliminate the risk of viral contamination. Nonetheless, these procedures do not ensure a complete elimination of SARS-CoV contamination risk since a major risk is represented by blood-borne infection, which is originated by the mouth of patients, and the contamination of dental units water lines (DUWLs) is most difficult to control. Blood-borne contamination may be achieved only by adopting a high level, between-patients disinfection protocol of the DUWLs based on the use of chemical agents with biocidal activity against spores, viruses, bacteria and fungi (Autosteril method). In conclusion a fully effective control of the cross-infection risk will be obtained only by adopting a correct, integrated use of different infection control procedures.