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Add ‘Dentist’ to List of High-Risk Occupations for Asbestos Exposure, Researchers Say

Construction Worker. Shipyard Worker. Pipefitter. Auto Mechanic. These occupations have two things in common—they are blue-collar jobs and all are high-risk occupations for asbestos exposure. Now, researchers say another occupation can be added to the list, and it’s not the type of vocation most people would associate with asbestos exposure. Dentists are now members of this high-risk group and the reason behind the inclusion is inconceivable.

Researchers say, “most cases of malignant mesothelioma of the pleura are caused by one or more readily available recognized sources of exposure to asbestos.” However, “cases of the disease with more occult exposures occur, especially since asbestos has been used in over 3,000 products.” One of those products, dental lining tape, was used in the industry from the 1930s until at least the 1970s. The product was commonly used in the “lost wax” method of casting bridges, crowns, and other metal dental prosthetic devices.

The process involved heating the devices to high temperatures. This meant that the tape used to line the devices had to have superior resistance to heat and flame. At the time, asbestos was being touted as a miracle mineral in this respect, so it was a top choice for manufacturers of the product.

According to the most recent evidence available, chrysotile asbestos was the type of asbestos used in dental tape in the past in the U.S. Asbestos minerals are divided into two major groups: Serpentine asbestos and Amphibole asbestos. Serpentine asbestos includes the mineral chrysotile or “white” asbestos, which is characterized by long, curly fibers that can be woven. Chrysotile asbestos has been used most widely in commercial applications, accounting for approximately 95 percent of asbestos used in the U.S.

Dentists who worked in the industry from the 1930s to the 1970s were routinely exposed to airborne chrysotile asbestos dust from dental tape. Though exposure to the mineral was often in small, intermittent amounts, six cases of pathology-verified malignant mesothelioma have been reported to date, and this number is likely to increase. Per a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), “these cases,” which resulted in asbestos tort litigation, “underscore the need for comprehensive exposure histories to determine exposure scenarios.”

If you worked in the dental industry from the 1930s to the 1970s, you may have been exposed to asbestos. It could take as few as 10-15 years up to 40 or even 50 years for symptoms of asbestos-related disease to appear. If you are experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, pain in the side of the chest or lower back, fatigue, weight loss, trouble swallowing, hoarseness, and/or swelling of the face or arms, please do not ignore these signs. See your doctor right away. It could be mesothelioma.



"Asbestos Toxicity Who Is at Risk of Exposure to Asbestos?" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), 09 Aug. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.

"Chrysotile Asbestos." Chrysotile Asbestos (n.d.): n. pag. Who.Int. World Health Organization (WHO), 2014. Web. 02 May 2017.

Markowitz, Steven B., and Jacqueline M. Moline. "Malignant Mesothelioma Due to Asbestos Exposure in Dental Tape." American Journal of Industrial Medicine 60.5 (2017): 437-42. Web. 02 May 2017.

"Who Is at Risk for an Asbestos-related Disease?" National Cancer Institute. National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), n.d. Web. 02 May 2017.