While no one knows what causes idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the risk is higher in men, people over 50, smokers, people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux), and those who have a genetic risk for the condition or who have had certain viral infections.
The condition has been linked to job-related and environmental hazards, including some medications and inhaling dust from bacteria and animal proteins, wood, metals, and silica.
But there is no known link to dentists or other dental personnel. However, dentists and other dental workers can be exposed to particles and chemical compounds when performing various tasks such as drilling, polishing, and preparing filling amalgams.
The substances used during these tasks include silica, polyvinyl siloxane, and other compounds that could be toxic to the lungs, according to the report. While it still isn't clear if or how these might play a role, it is possible that the occupational exposures are a factor.
Three of the patients were former smokers, one had never smoked, and the five remaining patients had an unknown smoking history, according to the report. It is unclear whether smoking in these patients contributed to the illness.