AIMS AND OBJECTIVES : The aim of the study was to determine the knowledge and
practices of dental and oral hygiene (OH) students related to the transmission and
prevention of the hepatitis B virus (HBV).
METHODS : A cross‑sectional analytical design was used and all dental and OH
students registered at a university in Pretoria in 2017 were asked to participate.
Students were classified as either clinical (senior students who were treating
patients) or nonclinical (junior students who had not yet started treating patients)
depending on their year of study. A pretested, self‑administered questionnaire
consisting of 16 closed‑ended and 4 open‑ended questions relating to the students’
knowledge and practice concerning HBV infection was used. Data were analyzed
using SPSS version 23. All data were confidential and anonymity was ensured.
RESULTS : A total of 292 (78%) students agreed to participate, and of these, 70%
were female. The average age was 21.78 years (±2.7) and almost two‑thirds (61%)
were classified as clinical students. A significant number of nonclinical students
reported that the HBV could be transmitted through saliva (P < 0.01), through
shaking hands (P < 0.01) and from sharing a toothbrush (P = 0.02) with an
infected person. Clinical students correctly reported that HBV could be spread
during the birth process from mother to child (P = 0.03). A significant number of
nonclinical students stated that they would use antibiotics to prevent the spread
of HBV infection (P < 0.01). The majority of respondents (94%) stated that
vaccinations should be taken to prevent infection with HBV and >90% of students
reported having completed the vaccination schedule.
CONCLUSION : Although both the knowledge on the virus and the modes of
transmission were very good, more than half did not know that HBV infection can be transmitted through piercing and more than half of the nonclinical students
wrongly reported that antibiotics can be used to prevent infection after exposure.
The vast majority were vaccinated against HBV