Pneumoconiosis in dental technicians: HRCT and pulmonary function findings
Background Pneumoconiosis is a form of diffuse interstitial lung disease, often resulting from occupational exposures. As dental prosthetic technicians (DPTs) build prostheses, they are exposed to many chemical materials that increase their risk of developing pneumoconiosis.
Aims To document pulmonary function and prevalence of pneumoconiosis in DPTs.
Methods A cross-sectional study of DPTs working in prosthetic laboratories who underwent pulmonary function test and high-resolution chest computed tomography (HRCT) scanning.
Results There were 76 participants and pneumoconiosis was diagnosed in 46%. The most commonly seen radiological finding was round opacities, present in 38%. Agreement among HRCT readers was moderate to good. As defined by HRCT, emphysema was diagnosed more often in those with a longer occupational history or a history of smoking, and low carbon monoxide diffusion capacity (DLCO), but not in those with pneumoconiosis. Forced expiratory rate and DLCO were significantly lower in those who had worked 16 years or more (all P < 0.05). DLCO values were significantly lower in technicians with emphysema and in current smokers (all P < 0.01). Round opacities were also present in a substantial proportion of DPTs who had 15 years or less exposure. Because HRCT is able to detect radiological changes of occupational lung disease very early, the prevalence of pneumoconiosis in our participants was quite high.
Conclusions Pneumoconiosis identified by HRCT was present in almost half of DPTs surveyed. Appropriate education and workplace protection should be given to DPTs in order to prevent exposure to hazardous materials in dental prosthetics laboratories.