Treating monkeypox: How dentists can help identify and reduce the spread

Written by on August 16, 2022

Treating monkeypox: How dentists can help identify and reduce the spread

By Brittany Sweeney
August 16, 2022

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – As the number of monkeypox cases rises, a Lehigh Valley doctor is asking dentists to help be on the lookout for the virus.

Around 300 cases of monkeypox have been recorded in Pennsylvania. 

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Signs of monkeypox include sores on the body, including in the oral cavity.  And in some cases, the mouth is the first area infected.

People with these sores may end up in the dentist’s office. 

Dr. Jeffrey Jahre is the senior vice president of medical and academic affairs at St. Luke’s University Health Network. 

“What’s happening, though, is a number of these people because they may not have any other symptoms and may have mouth lesions and they’re going for routine dental care into a dentist’s office and that’s where they’re appearing,” Jahre said.

He’s advising dentists and hygienists to be aware of what to look for.

“When you’re looking inside the mouth, the kinds of lesions that you can see related to monkeypox can sometimes resemble those that are seen with cold sores; or the herpes virus; canker sores; hand, foot and mouth disease; or even trauma,” Jahre said. 

Jahre said up to 70% of people with monkeypox have mouth lesions. Other symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, lymph node swelling and rash.

He said it’s important to find out the patient’s health history and if that person may have possibly been exposed.  

Jahre said dentist office staff are not at high risk at work because of health safety precautions already set in place.

People who think they may have been exposed to the virus are urged to call their primary care physician.  

Testing for monkeypox is available at many urgent care centers, primary care offices, and state or local health departments.  

There is a vaccine for monkeypox, but supply is extremely limited.

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