Needle sticks, burs cause most dental school injuries

By Theresa Pablos, DrBicuspid.com editor in chief

July 22, 2021 -- Needle sticks and uncovered burs are responsible for most dental school injuries, according to research presented on July 22 at the virtual International Association for Dental Research (IADR) meeting.

Researchers from the University of Louisville reviewed occupational injury data collected as part of the School of Dentistry's safety and infection control program. In the past 10 years, the school performed 1.5 million procedures in 822,139 patient visits. In that same period, dental students experienced 345 percutaneous injuries.

Needle sticks and burs left uncovered on the handpiece were the most frequently reported sources of skin injury. Many injuries occurred when students reached for an instrument or injected local anesthetic, and the hand and finger/thumb were the most commonly affected body parts.

Third-year dental students sustained the most injuries, accounting for 37% of all reported injuries. Third-year dental students were also the most likely group to not comply with available safety protocols. Fourth-year dental students sustained another 34% of percutaneous injuries.

Injuries were slightly more prevalent in the afternoon than in the morning. Students were also more likely to injure themselves on a Wednesday than any other day of the week.

"In most cases (96%), engineering controls were not used when available," the authors noted.

The University of Louisville School of Dentistry implemented its safety and infection control program more than 20 years ago. These types of programs are important to observe trends in occupational injuries and take corrective action, the authors noted.

"[The] challenge is improving compliance of timely reporting and creation of programs that educate dental students, before they enter the workforce as licensed healthcare providers," the authors concluded.


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