Nett concluded: 'At this time, we do not know what caused this cluster of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis cases in dental personnel'.
According to the CDC, nine dentists or dental workers have so far been diagnosed with the disease, called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, all of whom were treated at the same specialty clinic in Virginia. As he wrote, they used this term to refer a series of cases "grouped in place and time that are suspected to be greater than the number expected".
"Dental personnel who perform tasks that result in occupational exposures to known respiratory hazards should wear adequate respiratory protection if other controls (e.g., improved ventilation) are not practical or effective".
The median survival age of IPF after diagnosis is three to five years.
'These exposures include bacteria, viruses, dust, gases, radiation, and other respiratory hazards'. This made the experts think that those patients who did die could have been exposed to silica, or other compounds that are risky to humans due to their potential respiratory toxicity.
While the doctors can not find what caused the scarring condition to the cluster of dentists, some experts have suggested viral infections, cigarette smoking, and occupations where exposure to dust, wood dust, and metal dust are common, as the contributing factors to IPF. He concluded saying that the "CDC will follow up on this newly recognized cluster".
He has recommended that dental workers - of which there are 650,000 in the nation - wear protection as the CDC continue to work on their findings.
The CDC investigated - and they now say there may be a connection between a higher rate of the condition at that tertiary care center, and among people who work in dentists' offices.
Dr. Paul Casamassimo, chief policy officer of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's Pediatric Oral Health & Research Center, notes that a number of dental professional organizations have taken steps to add safety of both patients and dental personnel to their program agendas.
Dentists have been exposed to dust and plaster from drilling for years, apart from the toxic substance that the report lists.
"We do work with materials and with human bioproducts that are potentially damaging to our bodies if we inhale them", said Casamassimo.
Dr. Casamassimo also noted that his father, who was an "old-school" dentists, passed away when he was 79.
It's estimated that about 200,000 people in the United States have Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) at any one time. Something in their workplace environment may have been poisoning them, investigators said, although they don't know what.