A rare lung disease is killing dentists
in Virginia, a new report finds. The disease in question, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), only
affects about 200,000 people in the United States at a time, but a specialty clinic in
Virginia has reported that a small group of patients over the past 15 years has
given health officials a reason to worry about diagnosis rates: Nine of the patients—seven of whom have died—were
dentists or dental workers.
According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), dentists made up a surprising 1 percent of IPF patients in
the clinic. While that doesn’t seem like a lot on paper, it’s actually startlingly high considering it determines that dental
workers are 23 times more likely to have IPF than the rest of the U.S.
population. Knowing this, health officials are speculating that the dentist’s
workplace may be contributing to their more frequent development of the disease.
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Sadly, the exact cause for the disease is still unclear. In the past, IPF has
been linked to jobs that have frequent exposure to dust—wood or metal—however, this is the first time a connection to dental work has been determined.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis causes
scarring of the lungs, making it hard for them to get oxygen to vital organs
once compromised. Unfortunately, the disease cannot be cured and is often
fatal. So, in order to protect yourself from the disease, the CDC is urging people
who work in dental offices to take precautionary measures like wearing a respirator during
certain procedures and always using protective gear when applicable at work. As the saying goes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.