Although advances in knowledge about Hepatitis C are ongoing, it remains a significant public health issue with many individuals still unaware of their HCV status. Oral healthcare professionals should possess foundational knowledge regarding this blood borne infection including the modes of transmission, appearance of oral or dermatological manifestations associated with an undiagnosed chronic Hepatitis C infection which may be observed in a Dental Head and Neck examination. Additionally, since it is a blood borne infection, the potential exists for transmission in a dental setting if the standards of infection control are not maintained.
Prior to 2011, there were two pharmaceutical drugs which were not very effective at managing this retrovirus infection. In 2011, the first direct acting antiviral agents were introduced. Since that time the number of direct acting antiviral agents has multiplied with estimates that by 2020, 40 direct acting antiviral agents maybe available. Dental Healthcare professional should have fundamental knowledge of the FDA approved direct acting antiviral agents being prescribed to manage the Hepatitis C infection and if these drug regimens cure the patient.
Additionally, the oral healthcare provider is required to possess knowledge regarding how to deliver dental care in a safe and effective manner for patients who have a chronic Hepatitis C infection.
Upon completion of reading these articles, the clinician will be able to:
- Know the prevalence and genotypes of Hepatitis C in the US population
- Long term complications of a chronic Hepatitis C infection
- Understand the modes of transmission for Hepatitis C
- Be able to explain the natural disease progression of a Hepatitis C infection
- Understand the Hepatitis C genome and sites of action for drug development
- Understand the direct acting antiviral cure rates and length of treatment
- What is meant by the term sustained virologic response (SVR)?
- Be able to identify high risk groups in the US population
- Using the Dental Head and Neck exam to identify undiagnosed chronic Hepatitis C infections
- Considerations when establishing a dental treatment plan for patients with chronic Hepatitis C.