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Dentistry (Hepatitis)

Volume 130: debated on Monday 28 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether the recommendations made by the expert group on hepatitis in dentistry have been implemented; and if he will make a statement;(2) what standards are required by his Department for sterilisation equipment used by dentists; what steps are taken to ensure such standards are met; and if he will make a statement;(3) what sterilisation standards are laid down by his Department for dentists; what steps are taken to ensure those standards are maintained in dentists' surgeries; and if he will make a statement.

The report of the expert advisory group on hepatitis in dentistry was published in 1979 and was distributed to all dental practitioners at that time. Its recommendations have been incorporated in both undergraduate and postgraduate training courses since then.The procedures recommended in the report were re-emphasised in guidance prepared for surgeons, anaesthetists and dentists on the transmission of HTLV (HIV) and issued in April 1986 to all dentists under cover of a letter from the chief dental officer, since the procedures are essentially the same for all blood-borne viruses. It included advice on methods of achieving the sterilisation of non-disposable instruments and equipment.General dental practitioners are required under their terms of service to furnish their surgery with adequate equipment, and to use adequate skill and attention in providing treatment. Any dentist who fails to do so renders himself vulnerable to disciplinary proceedings. These could lead to charges of serious professional misconduct brought by the General Dental Council, with the possibility, if found guilty, of erasure from the dental register.