Dental Review reports on fume extraction specialist BOFA and talks about the invisible threat to dental technicians
After some 30 years in the business BOFA is acknowledged as the world leader in dust and fume extraction technology, but what does that mean to the technicians working in dental labs throughout the UK?
Simple, incidences of occupational skin and lung disease are well above average for dental technicians, and the causes are so small as to be invisible to the naked eye.
It doesn’t matter if you work in a traditional lab or a modern state-of-the-art digital facility, you can be adversely affected by dust and fumes from the materials you handle every day. Metals, waxes, resins and silica can all cause allergic reactions that will affect your skin or respiratory tract, and might even lead to cancer.
Toxic fumes and particulates are generated by a number of factors common to the lab, including:
• CAD/CAM processes
• Hand finishing
• Monomer mixing
• The manufacture or repair of dental implants
• Manufacture of crowns, bridges and dentures
What are the risks?
A BOFA specialist explains: “A dental technician, on average, is exposed to 12kg of ultra-fine particulate dust every year, which can be anything between 0.05 to3µm in size. To put this into perspective a human hair is approximately 70µm in thickness. These particulates can be very damaging to the lungs and mucous tissues of the respiratory tract.
“Materials including zirconia, cobalt, nickel, beryllium and quartz can be inhaled, as can plaster dust, gold and plastic/acrylics. Monomer toxic fumes are also a common hazard. Health and Safety Executive statistics for 2014-2015 list dental technicians amongst the UK’s top three groups of health care professionals to suffer from the highest incidences of work-related illness.
“Most airborne particulates are invisible to the naked eye, but all must be regarded as hazardous. If left uncontrolled dust levels will exceed occupational exposure limits and have a detrimental effect on both staff and equipment.”
How bad can it be?
The BOFA specialist continued: “If the dust isn’t extracted your expensive, precision production equipment will be compromised by its build-up, which will give rise to additional maintenance costs and potentially lead to major performance issues. Proper and adequate dust extraction will obviate the situation and help prolong the life of your machinery, as well as improve the well-being of your workforce.”
The dangers are very real, the effects of inhaling air-borne particulates are so well recognised that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is also recognised as “Technician’s lung”, and another ailment is known specifically as “dental technician’s pneumoconiosis” (DTP).
These are just two of the extensive side-effects caused by ignoring dust extraction, to which we can include irritation to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes, allergic dermatitis, and asthma. Add to these, abnormalities or lesions in the body’s organs, disturbances to the central nervous system, liver problems and fertility issues, plus silicosis. The list gets longer, but it becomes increasingly obvious that the risks technicians face every day just doing their jobs can have long-lasting and potentially devastating results.
The BOFA specialist concluded: “You need to choose the right solution for keeping dust under control for the health and safety of your team and the optimum performance of your equipment. You need a system that removes dust without blocking airflow through the filter, which will reduce airflow at the essential source capture point and cause damage to machines.
“At BOFA we are experts in dealing with hazardous airborne materials and fumes, and have been developing extraction systems for over 30 years. Our British made DentalPRO range has been designed especially for dental labs, with large capacity, high efficiency and powerful vacuums, yet they are quiet in operation with low running costs.
“Technicians can be sure they will have the flexibility they need to work without restrictions, while potentially harmful dust and fumes are being removed to help maintain the optimum safe working environment.”
For more information about the BOFA DentalPRO range visit www.bofa.co.uk.