Preventing Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens in the Dental Office


When you work in a dental office, it's easy to think that bloodborne pathogens don't pose much of a threat. After all, most of the time your patients aren't bleeding or going through any kind of medical emergency that would cause them to have blood on their skin or clothes. However, accidents can happen at any time, and dental professionals are not immune from being exposed to bloodborne pathogens—even if they're just sitting quietly in their chairs while you clean their teeth. But by taking some simple precautions at work and home, you can minimize the risks associated with working with patients who are experiencing bleeding or other injuries.

Are bloodborne pathogens a concern in your dental office?

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious organisms that can be transmitted by blood or other body fluids. Transmission occurs when a person comes in contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected individual.

Bloodborne pathogens include:

  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV causes hepatitis, which is inflammation of the liver. It is spread through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids such as semen and vaginal secretions, but not saliva or tears from a person who has an active HBV infection. You can also get it if you share needles or syringes with someone who has hepatitis B disease; for example, if someone uses your toothbrush after they have been sick with jaundice (yellowing), you could get infected too!
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV attacks certain cells called CD4+ T-helper lymphocytes found throughout your body including those that help fight off infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis."

Exposure to bloodborne pathogens can happen accidentally.

Bloodborne pathogens are viruses and bacteria that are spread through contact with blood or other bodily fluids. The most common examples of bloodborne pathogens include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), and the human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV). Exposure can happen if you touch someone else's blood or if you get it on your skin. Body fluids like saliva, mucus, urine, feces, and vomit may also contain these germs if they come from an infected person.

Bloodborne Pathogens in Dental Practices

Dental professionals need to be aware of how they can prevent exposure to these dangerous microorganisms while performing their jobs at work or at home--especially since dental offices have been found to have higher rates of exposure than other areas in healthcare settings such as hospitals

You can take precautions against exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

As a dental professional, you can take precautions against exposure to bloodborne pathogens. These include:

  • Using universal precautions during all patient care activities. Universal precautions are designed to protect you from exposure to bloodborne pathogens regardless of the type or source of body fluids. Use Standard Precautions as well as appropriate PPE at all times when working with patients who may be infected with HIV or other bloodborne pathogens (such as hepatitis B virus).
  • Following recommendations regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) use in dental offices.
  • Following regulations regarding disinfection and sterilization procedures.
  • Using PPE every time you provide direct patient care.
  • Cleaning up spills immediately after they occur; if necessary, dispose of potentially infectious materials properly.
  • Washing hands regularly throughout the day.
  • Disposing of contaminated sharps safely by following regulations on disposal methods.
  • Being aware of what is happening around you at all times--this includes keeping an eye on coworkers who might need help if they accidentally cut themselves while using sharp instruments like scalpels or needles

Use personal protective equipment (PPE).

When you're working in a dental office, there's always a risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. It's important to use personal protective equipment (PPE) whenever there is a risk of exposure, such as when performing oral surgery or cleaning instruments.

  • Use gloves, masks, and goggles when appropriate. Gloves should be worn when handling sharp instruments or equipment that could cause cuts on the hands; masks should be worn when there are open wounds on the face; goggles should be worn if splashing is likely during procedures such as root canal therapy.
  • Dispose of PPE after use.
  • PPE must be disposed of immediately after use so it doesn't become contaminated with bodily fluids.
  • Store all used personal protective equipment (PPE) in designated containers until they can be properly cleaned and disinfected before reuse.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting reusable PPE may include washing with soap and water followed by drying thoroughly.
  • Wearing appropriate protection helps prevent transmission of bloodborne pathogens between patients as well as between employees who come into contact with these substances during their workday.
  • While gloves are considered part of standard dental office procedure today because they protect both patients' mouths from potential injuries caused by improperly sterilized instruments/tools used during treatment sessions while also protecting workers' hands from being punctured while performing procedures like filling cavities which would otherwise require anesthesia before being performed safely without causing harm either physically

Follow universal precautions and use Standard Precautions.

Universal precautions are a set of guidelines that require healthcare professionals to treat all blood and body fluids as if they are contaminated with infectious agents. This means you should wear gloves, masks, and eye protection when working with patients who have open wounds or have been recently exposed to blood or other bodily fluids.

Standard Precautions are a set of general infection control measures that all dental offices should follow in order to reduce the risk of transmitting infections from patient to patient and staff member to patient. These include:

  • Wearing gloves when providing care (e.g., during dental procedures)
  • Using disposable instruments whenever possible
  • Disinfecting reusable instruments after each use (with an appropriate disinfectant such as bleach)

PPE will help protect you from accidental exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes gloves, masks, eyewear, and gowns. These items should be worn when handling blood or body fluids.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for use. Don't reuse single-use items like masks or gloves; discard them in a puncture-proof container and dispose of them properly.


If you're concerned about exposure to bloodborne pathogens in your dental office, it's important to take precautions. You can do this by following universal precautions and using Standard Precautions, as well as wearing PPE like gloves and masks when needed.

Back to blog