Cathleen Terhune Alty`s excellent "Needles and the Rush Hour" article (March 1996) is important because, eventually, all dental staff will inadvertently get a needle stick if they work in dentistry long enough. My congratulations to RDH for publishing such a topic.
It is common to quote the CDC study noting a 0.3 percent change of seroconverting after percutaneous exposure to needles filled with HIV-infected blood. What few people in dentistry know is that this percentage is based on a study involving large-bore (medical) needles - not the small gauge needles common to dentistry. When I checked with CDC, they state there were no documented cases of dental needle stick HIV transmission ... in fact, there are no documented cases of any occupational HIV transmission in dentistry.
The reason many believe that no HIV transmission can occur in dentistry is that 27 and 30 gauge needles do not have the volume necessary to transmit an infecting dose of AIDS virus. It does not happen. In addition, saliva destroys the infectivity of the virus.
If you should stick yourself with a dental needle, do not panic. Wash the wound with soap and water, cover it, and endeavor to be more careful. You are no more at risk than having a dental chair fall and crush you.
E.J. Neiburger, DDS
Center for Dental AIDS Research