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Work-related contact dermatitis in dentistry

Work-related contact dermatitis is the most common form of skin disease in the dental team.

Size of the problem?

Dental nurses, and to a lesser extent dentists, are at a greater risk of developing work-related contact dermatitis compared to other occupations

What is it?

Dermatitis is an inflammatory condition of the skin caused by outside agents which can result in irritation, redness, cracking and blistering.

Much less commonly seen skin problems, such as those due to contact urticaria, may be due to occupational exposure to natural latex rubber proteins in sensitised individuals. Use the “Latex” link to see more information about latex allergies.

Who is affected?

Work-related dermatitis can affect all members of the dental team who regularly wash their hands, are exposed to chemicals used in dental work and/or are exposed to rubber materials such as those in personal protective equipment.

Causes

The main causes of work-related contact dermatitis in these workers are rubber chemicals (eg carbamates, thirurams) which may be present in both natural rubber latex and synthetic rubber materials (eg nitrile), soaps/cleaners and ‘wet-work’ (eg having wet skin through frequent hand washing, surface cleaning). The skin of workers may also be exposed to other allergenic or irritating chemicals often used in dental practice (eg an X-ray developer).

Reduce the risks of work-related dermatitis

Advice for employees

Advice for employers

To comply with the laws that apply, you need to carry out a risk assessment. Depending on the risks, put in place suitable measures to manage the risks or work-related contact dermatitis which may include:

Use a system of skin-checking or other appropriate health surveillance to ensure preventative measures are working.

Useful links

Updated 2016-01-29