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CDC Identifies Cluster Of Deadly Disease Among Dentists: What Is Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis?

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that an observation of patients at the Virginia Care Center led to the discovery that dentists had a high occurrence of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

The CDC's study of more than 900 patients over 20 years has found cases of IPF in nine male patients, including eight dentists and one dental technician, seven of whom had already died.

The investigation took place after a dentist, who was diagnosed with IPF, reported the alarming pattern found at the Virginia Care Center to the CDC.

“A questionnaire was administered to one of the living patients, who reported polishing dental appliances and preparing amalgams and impressions without respiratory protection,” CDC stated. “Substances used during these tasks contained…known or potential respiratory toxicity. Although no clear etiologies for this cluster exist, occupational exposures possibly contributed.”

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis In Dentistsn>

The CDC has said that though cases of the disease have been linked to certain types of jobs, there is no published data about the association between dentists and IMF. Though the agency has mentioned that dentists and dental personnel are exposed to ionizing radiation, airborne particulates, chemicals, infectious agents and other likely hazardous materials.

Dentists experience inhalation exposures that can elevate their risk toward some respiratory diseases related to occupation.

The new report is not surprising according to Dr. Paul Casamassimo, who is the Chief Policy Officer for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's Pediatric Oral Health & Research Center.

Dentists have been exposed to dust and plaster from drilling for years, apart from the toxic substance that the report lists. Casamassimo noted that the cluster patients were all older so they were probably not abreast with current safety and personal protection practices.

"We do work with materials and with human bioproducts that are potentially damaging to our bodies if we inhale them," said Casamassimo. Younger dentists are taught differently than in the past, so they know to delegate certain work or procedures to laboratories that meet more safe and stringent ventilation requirements."

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: Signs And Symptoms, Facts and Figures

IPF is a kind of lung disease that leads to lung scarring or fibrosis for reasons that are still unknown, according to the Lung Association. It is, however, known that 75 percent of IPF patients are male and almost all patents are more than 50 years of age.

The scarring gets worse over time and the patient finds it difficult to take deep breaths and the lungs cannot take in ample oxygen. It is a type of interstitial lung disease, which involves the interstitium but does not affect the blood vessels or airways directly.

Breathlessness and chronic coughing are the two main symptoms of IPF. IPF-related breathlessness usually occurs during exercise. The breathlessness can also adversely impact daily activities like eating, getting dressed, climbing stairs or eating. It can eventually prevent the patient from partaking in any activity when the lung scarring gets worse.

About 85 percent of IPF patients also have a chronic, mainly dry cough that persists for more than eight weeks. Some patients can also cough up phlegm or sputum.

Other symptoms related to the affliction are the loss of energy and tiredness, appetite loss, unexplained weight loss, and tightness or pain in the chest.

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