Everything You Need to Know About MRSA

A Nurse Visits With a Senior Home Resident

A Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is a type of bacterial infection that can be spread through healthcare facilities, including a dental office. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2 in every 100 people carry the bacteria responsible for this infection, though most do not develop serious MRSA infections. Those who do become infected should seek treatment as soon as possible, since the infection is resistant to several common antibiotics. Here's how to identify this type of infection and information about the measures you can take today to prevent its spreading.

Symptoms

Carriers, who may or may not show symptoms, can transmit the bacteria to susceptible people and infect them. The infection generally causes a red bump on the skin that might resemble a pimple or spider bite, according to the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, the affected area may be:

  • Warm
  • Swollen
  • Painful
  • Full of pus or other discharge
  • Accompanied by a fever

According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors diagnose this infection by checking nasal secretions or a tissue sample for the drug-resistant bacteria. A prompt diagnosis is important, because if the infection spreads to the bloodstream, lungs, heart, bones or joints, it can become life-threatening.

Different Strains

There are two strains of these bacteria: hospital-associated and community-associated.

  • Hospital-Associated

    Most cases of this infection are spread through a hospital setting, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you have spent time in a hospital, have an invasive medical device or reside in a long-term care facility, you may be more at risk of contracting hospital-associated MRSA. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are also more prone to contracting the bacteria.
  • Community-Associated

    Risk factors for community-acquired MRSA include participating in a contact sport, living in crowded or unsanitary conditions and using intravenous drugs. Homosexual men are also more at risk of contracting the infection. As many as 70 percent of patients infected with the community-associated strain experience a recurrent infection within a year, according to the Infectious Disease Clinics of North America.

Transmission in a Dental Setting

The nose, throat and oral cavity are the natural habitats of Staphylococcus aureus, according to a case report in the International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, which makes it especially important for dental personnel to maintain a clean office environment when providing treatment. Transmission of the bacteria may occur via contact with blood or saliva from the patient, contact with contaminated instruments, contact with a healthcare professional's contaminated hands or exposure to airborne droplets.

To prevent bacterial transmission, dental health professionals follow specific infection control procedures and sterilization techniques, including hand and equipment hygiene, to ensure you stay safe throughout your treatment.

Treatment and Prevention

If you do contract a MRSA infection, treatment may include antibiotics, though not all cases require drugs, notes the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, a doctor may also drain the bump caused by the infection.

Practicing proper infection control is imperative to preventing transmission of the bacteria. Here are some cautionary measures suggested by the Mayo Clinic for hospitals and health facilities:

  • Implement contact precautions and place infected patients in isolation.
  • Require visitors and care providers to wear protective clothing when in contact with infected patients.
  • Disinfect any potentially contaminated surfaces or laundry.

To prevent the spread of MRSA in community settings, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following measures:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Keep wounds covered until healed.
  • Avoid sharing items such as towels, washcloths, razors and clothes.
  • Sanitize laundry, towels and bed sheets in very hot water with bleach.
  • Shower immediately after athletic games or practices.

If you have a dental visit coming up, make sure that you notify your dental provider of anything out of the ordinary — whether it be in your mouth or on your skin. Take time to also express any concerns if the office does not appear completely clean and orderly. After all, you're not only looking out for yourself — you're also promoting the safety and well-being of those who will sit in the chair after you.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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