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Monday, 29 January, 2001, 00:18 GMT
Wonder needle cuts accident rate
Syringes cause more injuries than other equipment
Syringes cause more injuries than other equipment
The introduction of safer syringes has eradicated the risk of dentists suffering injuries from needles.

The study, at London's St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, was aimed at preventing dentists and their staff stabbing themselves with infected needles when they removed them from indisposable syringes.

The lead researcher estimated dentists use a syringe needle every 15 minutes.

Students and trainees are particularly at risk of injury.

But the two-year study showed when wholly disposable syringes were used, so-called needle stick injuries were completely eradicated.

In the first six months of the study, there were still some injuries - but in the last 18 months, none at all were reported.

A unit which used the normal non-disposable syringes reported a slight fall in the rate of injuries, but saw a much higher incident rate, falling from 26 to 20 injuries per 1,000,000.

'No patient risk'

However, patients are not in danger because injuries from needles only occurred when they were being "resheathed" with a plastic cover so they could be removed from the syringe.

Needle stick injuries can lead to the transmission of blood borne viruses, including HIV, hepatitis B and C. Of those, protection is only available for hepatitis B.

Dental experts welcomed the research, published in the British Dental Journal.

The British Dental Association said a third of the injuries from instruments currently reported are caused by non-disposable dental syringes.

The disposable syringes costs no more than its non-disposable counterparts.

The British Dental Association recently re-accredited the Septodont Safety Plus, the product used in the study.

Infection risk

Dr Joanna Zakrzewska, who led the study, had worked in a special dental unit for HIV and Aids patients, where staff had suffered needle stick injuries and faced agonising waits to see if they had contracted HIV.

"In the dental profession, because we use so much local anaesthetic, dentists like to have a ready needle syringe that's easy to pick up. It's the same system that has been used since the 1920s."

She added that the practice of using the disposable syringes was being adopted in dental schools across the UK.

"If dental students have been well trained, when they go into practice, they are going to change practice."

Dr Geoff Craig, chairman of the British Dental Association's health and science committee, said: "Any reasonable dentists would aim to try and protect themselves and their staff, and would see the benefits of using this equipment."

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See also:

17 Jan 01 | Health
Private dentists regulation call
17 Jan 01 | Health
'My dental agony'
19 Sep 00 | Health
100m dentistry plan criticised
01 Aug 00 | Health
Concern over dental controls
29 Jun 00 | Health
Dentistry 'being ignored'
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