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Will I get infected with HIV virus from a dental tool?

Tuesday, 16 March 2004
Answered by: Dr. L.M.Nath
Consultant, Community Medicine,

New Delhi
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Q. Recently I went to a dentist to get my teeth cleaned. I have a doubt that the instrument used to clean my teeth was clean or not. The instrument was used on me after a gap of ten minutes when it was used on the previous patient. Although the instrument must have been cleaned but I still have a doubt. I also doubt whether the instrument was sterilized at all.Will HIV virus survive for 10 minutes on that instrument? Can I get infected with HIV from the instrument? For how long can the virus survive on the instrument?

A.  The HIV does not survive if dried beyond a very short while. I do not think you need to worry, for several reasons:- * You do not know that the previous patient was HIV infected. The chances of a person off the street being HIV positive is very low in India. * Most dentists clean the instrument, cleaning even with soap and water or just water is likely to remove most, if not all HIV. * Even if a low dose of HIV enters your mouth it is definitely not 100% sure that you will be infected. Please don't worry. I do not mean that proper sterilisation is not required, it is required but I do mean that in your case the chance of infection is very low but not absent. If you still have a doubt, then get a test done after an appropriate interval.

A.  The HIV does not survive if dried beyond a very short while. I do not think you need to worry, for several reasons:- * You do not know that the previous patient was HIV infected. The chances of a person off the street being HIV positive is very low in India. * Most dentists clean the instrument, cleaning even with soap and water or just water is likely to remove most, if not all HIV. * Even if a low dose of HIV enters your mouth it is definitely not 100% sure that you will be infected. Please don't worry. I do not mean that proper sterilisation is not required, it is required but I do mean that in your case the chance of infection is very low but not absent. If you still have a doubt, then get a test done after an appropriate interval.

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