Health: Dentistry

House of Lords written question – answered at on 6 October 2010.

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Photo of Lord Colwyn Lord Colwyn Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many patients acquired transmissible diseases from dental treatment during the past 10 years.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The main risks of cross-infection in primary dental care arise from transmission from patient to patient by reusable instruments of blood-borne viruses (BBV), particularly hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Spongiform Encephalitis Advisory Committee (SEAC) has also raised concerns about the potential for the creation of more cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease related to primary dental care. We do not collect data on these risks because the incubation periods of BBV diseases are so long, and the number of dental treatments so frequent, that it would be impossible to relate an individual infection to a specific course of treatment. However, it is estimated that in the United Kingdom there are about 83,000 people with HIV, over a quarter of whom are unaware of their infection, 180,000 with chronic hepatitis B (the level of undiagnosed infections is unknown), and 250,000 people with chronic hepatitis C infection, about a half of whom are unaware that they are infected.

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