Personal protection prior to departure: Immunizations are an essential part of prevention and infection-control programs before a trip. Dental health care personnel are considered to be at substantial risk for acquiring or transmitting hepatitis B, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, typhoid, varicella, and yellow fever. Those diseases are preventable with vaccines. Volunteers should be vaccinated or have documented immunity to the diseases prior to a trip. Complete information about individual needs and U.S. and host government requirements can be obtained by going online and reading the CDC General Recommendations on Immunization.
Personal protection in the clinical area: All dental health care personnel who could possibly be occupationally exposed to infectious materials, including bodily substances, contaminated supplies, environmental surfaces, equipment, air, or water, during a trip should read or be informed about basic rules and recommendations prior to starting any clinical work. Important information is available at Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures (OSAP). OSAP is dedicated to promoting infection-control and safety policies and practices supported by science and research to the global dental community.
The universal precautions regarding infection control described in the next subsection are based on the concept that all blood and body fluids from patients should be considered to be infectious. Since most patients come from remote areas with few infection-control measures, patients can be asymptomatic or unaware that they are carrying any infectious disease, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or hepatitis B and hepatitis C. The best protection for volunteers is to use proper standard precautions that include the following: 1) thorough hand-washing, 2) use of gloves, masks, protective eyewear, and gowns, 3) cautious handling of sharp instruments, and 4) possible use of some kind of rubber dam to minimize blood spattering.
Clinical accidents usually occur when an operator is in a hurry, is using an improper technique, or is tired. Conditions and the environment in the field might be completely different from those in a dentist’s practice in the United States, so the possibility of such accidents is even greater in a foreign country. Dental health personnel should take breaks from the clinic and make sure they remain hydrated and are getting enough rest.