MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a serious type of bacteria resistant to antibiotics in the penicillin family. MRSA can lead to infections spread from within your community or healthcare facility, including your dentist's office. If you think you're infected with MRSA, you should seek treatment immediately. If you're unsure, see below for symptoms, treatments, and how you can keep your hands clean and stop it from spreading.
Everything You Need To Know About MRSA
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
What Are The Symptoms of MRSA?
Staph aureus is usually found on the skin and about 1/3 of the population has this bacteria in their noses. Staph can only cause harm if they're able to enter your body via a wound or open cut. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 2% of people actually carry the bacteria responsible for MRSA, and most don't develop serious infections. While it may look like a pimple or spider bite, it could be an MRSA infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms of an MRSA infection include:
- Skin is warm to the touch
- The affected area is full of pus or discharge
A tissue sample or a nasal secretion check is necessary to diagnose an MRSA infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, the sooner the infection is diagnosed, the better — as spreading to your bloodstream, lungs, heart, bones, or joints could prove to be fatal. MRSA infections are resistant to methicillin, a type of penicillin because the Staph organism has a genetic mutation that allows it to survive in the presence of the antibiotic. Other antibiotics are needed to effectively treat an MRSA infection.
What Are The Different Strains of MRSA?
There are 2 different strains of MRSA — hospital-associated and community-associated.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most MRSA infections happen in healthcare facilities (possibly dental) and are known as HA-MRSA. Common risk factors for HA-MRSA include:
- Older folks and those with weak immune systems are vulnerable, especially in hospitals
- Placement of an invasive medical device
- Invasive procedures or devices (surgeries, intravenous tubing, artificial joints, etc.) provide a passageway for MRSA into your body
- Residing in a long-term care facility
- Even if a carrier of MRSA isn't showing symptoms, they could still spread it, which is bad news for residents of nursing homes
Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) occurs among healthy people and often starts as a skin boil via skin-to-skin contact, according to the Mayo Clinic. Common risk factors for CA-MRSA include:
- Contact sports
- Participating in a sport like wrestling allows MRSA to spread through abrasive skin-to-skin contact, as well as shared mats and equipment that haven't been cleaned
- Crowded living conditions
- Military camps, child care centers, and jails are hotbeds for MRSA outbreaks
- Homosexual men
- Homosexual sexual activity creates a higher risk for an MRSA infection
- Intravenous drug users
- If you inject drugs, you are 16.3 times likelier to develop an MRSA infection than those who don't
How MRSA Can Be Transmitted In A Dental Setting
A clean and sanitized environment is imperative when you receive dental treatment as MRSA is common in the nose, throat, and oral cavity notes the International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. MRSA can spread to the mouth and gums through:
- Blood contact
- Saliva contact
- Contact with contaminated instruments
- Contact with contaminated hands of dental professional
- Contact with contaminated equipment or surfaces
To prevent an MRSA infection from spreading, all dentist offices should follow a specific protocol to disinfect their environment and ensure cleanliness and safety for both patients and staff.
How To Treat and Prevent MRSA
According to the Mayo Clinic, certain antibiotics or draining the infection's bump are possible treatments.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the following in preventing the spread of HA-MRSA:
- Place infected patients in isolation and make contact precautions mandatory
- Everyone in contact with infected patients should be required to wear protective clothing
- All contaminated laundry and surfaces must be disinfected immediately
The Mayo Clinic also recommends the following in preventing the spread of CA-MRSA:
- Wash your hands
- Keep wounds covered until healed
- Avoid sharing items such as towels, washcloths, razors, and clothes
- Sanitize laundry, towels, and bedsheets in hot water and bleach
- Shower immediately after athletic games or practices
- Avoid all intravenous drug injections
When talking about MRSA, everyone needs to come clean. You, your hospitals, your community, and your dentist's office. The more sanitized and clean you all are, the less chance you and other patients will be infected or spread the bacteria. If you have any questions or concerns about MRSA, speak with your dental professional immediately. And then, hopefully, you'll get that clean bill of health.
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.