CDC Releases New Guidelines for Infection Control In Dental Care

Dec. 18, 2003
Two-part document includes new guidelines for management of occupational exposures, dental unit water quality, hand hygiene products, and latex hypersensitivity.

The first comprehensive recommendations in 10 years for dental infection control were released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new document, Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings, 2003, updates previous guidelines issued in 1993 and 1986 and consolidates recommendations from other relevant CDC guidelines and standards as well as those of other major infection control organizations.

The new Guidelines use the broader term "standard precautions," which are protocols to protect against exposures to blood, other body fluids including saliva, mucous membranes, and broken skin, rather than "universal precautions," which are measures intended only to prevent exposures to blood.

Developed by CDC staff in collaboration with a working group of
infection control experts, the two-part document contains a review of the scientific evidence regarding dental infection control issues plus consensus, evidence-based recommendations. The 2003 Guidelines cover several issues not specifically addressed in earlier CDC dental guidelines. These issues include management of occupational exposures to infectious microorganisms transmitted through contact with blood and other body fluids; dental unit water quality; selection and use of dental devices with features designed to prevent needlesticks and other injuries from sharp objects; hand hygiene products including alcohol handrubs; latex hypersensitivity; dental radiology; and program evaluation. The 2003 Guidelines also address management of personnel health and safety issues in dental practices.

"Proper infection control procedures can prevent transmission of
diseases to patients and dental health care personnel, said Dr. William Kohn, Associate Director for Science in CDC's Division of Oral Health. "This new document provides the latest information to assist the dental profession in maintaining its already strong record of safe dental care."

The new Guidelines also consider needs for future research on infection control. Some of those identified include: determining optimal method and frequency of testing dental unit waterlines to maintain water quality standards; developing devices with passive safety features to prevent injuries; more clearly characterizing the epidemiology of blood contacts and related prevention measures; and evaluating design of strategies to communicate the risk of disease transmission in dentistry to the public.

Copies of the 2003 guidelines are being distributed broadly to
practitioners, dental and allied dental education programs, state boards of dental examiners, and dental laboratories. In addition, CDC is developing a slide presentation that can be used for training in dental health care settings which will be available on the CDC Oral Health Infection Control Web site in early 2004. A companion workbook for the guidelines and six Web-based training modules also are being developed by the Organization for Safety & Asepsis Procedures (OSAP) under a CDC cooperative agreement. Once completed, OSAP will make these materials
available at

The CDC Division of Oral Health seeks to improve the oral health of
communities by extending the use of proven strategies to prevent oral diseases, enhancing monitoring of oral diseases, strengthening the nation's oral health capacity, and guiding infection control in dentistry both domestically and internationally. The full report, Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings, 2003, can be found at For more information about infection control practices in dental care settings, please visit our Web site at