One of the key factors in the provision of safe and effective dental care is infection control in the dental surgery. This is vital as without this component there would be a substantial number of preventable infections. Health and safety are priorities for dentists and every day many procedures are completed safely due to the adherence of standard infection control protocols set out by the Centre for Disease Control.
It is vital as there are many touch points, instruments and contact surfaces involved during each patient appointment. Therefore all dentists and team members and dental laboratories must follow standard precautions and practices. These are set out in the CDC Infection Control Guidelines, which also sets out basic expectations for the provision of safe care. The guidelines combine summaries, checklists and tools to help members of staff to protect patient health and their own health, your patient coordinator will be able to advise on procedures. This is vital as infections can pass from staff to patient, patient to staff and patient to patient.
Some patients are concerned about hygiene and infection control and can talk to their dentist or treatment co-ordinator about treatment protocols. Patients are reassured when they see infection control in practice, with the use of sterilised equipment, gloves, facial masks and protective glasses, in addition to the cleaning of contact surfaces. The use of masks, gloves, surface disinfectants and sterilisation of re-usable instruments is mandatory. Dental professionals are also expected to adhere to procedures required by health and safety organisations in order to protect their own health.
In between appointments, and prior to a patient entering the surgery all contact surfaces such as handles, dental chair, light, trays, furniture handles and counter tops must all be cleaned and decontaminated. Some dental clinics also apply protective layers which are replaced after each patient appointment.
Instruments which are re-usable and not disposable must be cleaned and sterilised. Disposable items are to be disposed and not re-used. Guidelines are also provided on the operation of water treatment and waterlines, these are the tubes connecting dental instruments to the water supply.
To be effective, infection control protocols must be adhered to by all persons involved, taking the correct actions as required. All dental staff involved in patient care must use appropriate protective wear such as gloves, facial masks, gowns, bibs and eye care as required. After each patient appointment, any disposable items such as gloves and needles must be disposed of correctly. Members of staff must then clean their hands with antibacterial solution as required and put on a new pair of gloves.
Infection control happens almost automatically that it is easy to go unnoticed. Next time you have an appointment pay attention to all the infection control steps and processes in the background. It will give you confidence in knowing that your practice is doing everything necessary to prevent the spread of infection, and helping to keep patients healthy. If you have children explain to them the importance of great hygiene. Another tip is that if you have a cold or or other infectious condition you should delay any routine appointment until you feel better, unless your appointment is urgent. This way you will feel better and also be contributing to keeping your practice healthy.