| FAQ - Training & Personnel - Archived Through 2012
We are having our employees take the two step TB test. Do we need to do yearly TB testing or just retest if we suspect contact with a TB case?
The two step TST (TB skin test) should be administered at the time of employment. The need for annual TST is then based on your community risk assessment.
OSAP would like to refer you directly to the CDC's Infection Control Guidelines for Dental Healthcare Facilities. The Guidelines do address TB and the need for screening.
Healthcare workers with a positive PPD/TST history and a negative chest x-ray on file may be asked to complete an annual TB assessment. The TB assessment will determine whether or not additional testing and chest x-ray are necessary.
In part, the Guidelines state:
Patients infected with M. tuberculosis occasionally seek urgent dental treatment at outpatient dental settings. Understanding the pathogenesis of the development of TB will help DHCP determine how to manage such patients. (1)
M. tuberculosis is a bacterium carried in airborne infective droplet nuclei that can be generated when persons with pulmonary or laryngeal TB sneeze, cough, speak, or sing. These small particles (1--5 µm) can stay suspended in the air for hours. Infection occurs when a susceptible person inhales droplet nuclei containing M. tuberculosis, which then travel to the alveoli of the lungs. Usually within 2--12 weeks after initial infection with M. tuberculosis, immune response prevents further spread of the TB bacteria, although they can remain alive in the lungs for years, a condition termed latent TB infection. Persons with latent TB infection usually exhibit a reactive tuberculin skin test (TST), have no symptoms of active disease, and are not infectious. However, they can develop active disease later in life if they do not receive treatment for their latent infection. (1)
Approximately 5% of persons who have been recently infected and not treated for latent TB infection will progress from infection to active disease during the first 1--2 years after infection; another 5% will develop active disease later in life. Thus, approximately 90% of U.S. persons with latent TB infection do not progress to active TB disease. Although both latent TB infection and active TB disease are described as TB, only the person with active disease is contagious and presents a risk of transmission. Symptoms of active TB disease include a productive cough, night sweats, fatigue, malaise, fever, and unexplained weight loss. Certain immunocompromising medical conditions (e.g., HIV) increase the risk that TB infection will progress to active disease at a faster rate. (1)
Overall, the risk borne by DHCP for exposure to a patient with active TB disease is probably low. Only one report exists of TB transmission in a dental office, and TST conversions among DHCP are also low. However, in certain cases, DHCP or the community served by the dental facility might be at relatively high risk for exposure to TB. (1)
Surgical masks do not prevent inhalation of M. tuberculosis droplet nuclei, and therefore, standard precautions are not sufficient to prevent transmission of this organism. Recommendations for expanded precautions to prevent transmission of M. tuberculosis and other organisms that can be spread by airborne, droplet, or contact routes have been detailed in other guidelines. (1)
TB transmission is controlled through a hierarchy of measures, including administrative controls, environmental controls, and personal respiratory protection. The main administrative goals of a TB infection-control program are early detection of a person with active TB disease and prompt isolation from susceptible persons to reduce the risk of transmission. Although DHCP are not responsible for diagnosis and treatment of TB, they should be trained to recognize signs and symptoms to help with prompt detection. Because potential for transmission of M. tuberculosis exists in outpatient settings, dental practices should develop a TB control program appropriate for their level of risk. (1)
- A community risk assessment should be conducted periodically, and TB infection-control policies for each dental setting should be based on the risk assessment. The policies should include provisions for detection and referral of patients who might have undiagnosed active TB; management of patients with active TB who require urgent dental care; and DHCP education, counseling, and TST screening.
- DHCP who have contact with patients should have a baseline TST, preferably by using a two-step test at the beginning of employment. The facility's level of TB risk will determine the need for routine follow-up TST.
- While taking patients' initial medical histories and at periodic updates, dental DHCP should routinely ask all patients whether they have a history of TB disease or symptoms indicative of TB.
- Patients with a medical history or symptoms indicative of undiagnosed active TB should be referred promptly for medical evaluation to determine possible infectiousness. Such patients should not remain in the dental-care facility any longer than required to evaluate their dental condition and arrange a referral. While in the dental health-care facility, the patient should be isolated from other patients and DHCP, wear a surgical mask when not being evaluated, or be instructed to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Elective dental treatment should be deferred until a physician confirms that a patient does not have infectious TB, or if the patient is diagnosed with active TB disease, until confirmed the patient is no longer infectious.
- If urgent dental care is provided for a patient who has, or is suspected of having active TB disease, the care should be provided in a facility (e.g., hospital) that provides airborne infection isolation (i.e., using such engineering controls as TB isolation rooms, negatively pressured relative to the corridors, with air either exhausted to the outside or HEPA-filtered if recirculation is necessary). Standard surgical face masks do not protect against TB transmission; DHCP should use respiratory protection (e.g., fit-tested, disposable N-95 respirators).
- Settings that do not require use of respiratory protection because they do not treat active TB patients and do not perform cough-inducing procedures on potential active TB patients do not need to develop a written respiratory protection program.
- Any DHCP with a persistent cough (i.e., lasting >3 weeks), especially in the presence of other signs or symptoms compatible with active TB (e.g., weight loss, night sweats, fatigue, bloody sputum, anorexia, or fever), should be evaluated promptly.
- The DHCP should not return to the workplace until a diagnosis of TB has been excluded or the DHCP is on therapy and a physician has determined that the DHCP is noninfectious.
1) CDC's Infection Control Guidelines for Dental Healthcare Facilities:
There may be additional State requirements that OSAP would not be aware of, therefore, you should also contact your State Board of Dental Examiners/Licensing Board or other State Public Health Agencies for additional information.
For information concerning all medical and dental healthcare providers, OSAP would like to refer you to the following additional resources:
1) The CDC's Infection Control Guidelines for Dental Health Care Facilities (December 2003)
provides information on exposure incidents and may be viewed at:
2) CDC's Division of Tuberculosis: TB Guidelines
3) CDC's FAQ concerning TB:
4) CDC's links to additional TB information including State TB programs and NIOSH:
5) CDC's Issues in Healthcare Settings: TB http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/hip/guide/tuber.htm
5) OSHA: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/tuberculosis/index.html
6) OSHA Respiratory Protection: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/respiratoryprotection/index.html
7) Listing for State Health Departments/Agencies: http://www.statelocalgov.net/
8) Listing of State Board of Dental Examiners/Licensing Boards: