Dental hygiene is a prevention-focused profession. It is very important for hygienists to be aware of the immunizations and screening tests that are recommended for health-care workers to protect them from exposures to infectious diseases.
Until recently, the only vaccination required for dental health-care workers was for hepatitis B (HBV), a requirement of the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. OSHA requires employers to provide the HBV vaccine to employees who are at risk of exposure to the virus while performing routine job tasks. At least one state dental board (Ohio) requires all licensed dental professionals to provide evidence of receiving the vaccine in order to receive and maintain their licenses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated guidelines for vaccinations for dental health-care personnel, increasing the scope of the recommendations beyond OSHA requirements to include other infectious diseases that may be an exposure risk. The CDC’s Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-care Settings - 2003, contains the current immunization recommendations for dental hygienists. (see Table 1 - Appendix B.) The table contains information about the recommended vaccines, dose schedules, indications/contraindications, and special considerations for administration of the vaccines. Click here to view tables.
There is additional information about adult immunizations, which are not limited to occupational health risks, but are applicable to the general population. These are summarized in Table 2.
Two of the immunizations listed in Table 2, hepatitis A (HAV) and tetanus and diphtheria (Td), are not occupational risks for hygienists. HAV vaccine is important for hygienists who travel to countries where there is a risk of HAV, a food and water borne disease. Information about infectious diseases related to travel is available on the CDC web site at www.cdc.gov/travel/. Complete copies of the CDC Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-care Settings and the Adult Immunization Schedule are available at www.cdc.gov.
It is important to consult with a physician when considering any immunizations. It is also important to remember that immunizations are not a guarantee against contracting an infectious disease, and are not a substitute for following appropriate infection prevention protocols.