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Infection control

While the transmission of infectious agents between dental health care personnel and patients is rare, infection prevention cannot be taken for granted in a dental setting.

Train new hires on infection prevention and develop written protocols appropriate to the level of care provided. Periodically reinforce the primary principles of infection control.

Here are some key precautions to aid infection control.

Maintain hand hygiene

Effective hand washing with an antimicrobial soap is the most important safeguard against unwanted infections. For non-surgical procedures and routine examinations, a standard “soap & water” wash or alcohol-based hand rub will suffice. All surgical procedures require a full surgeon’s scrub and the use of sterile gloves.

Utilize personal protective equipment

Ensure that your practice is stocked with sufficient and readily available personal protective equipment (PPE). All dental staff must:

  • Use gloves when contacting blood, mucous membranes, open wounds or contaminated instruments. Never wash or reuse gloves. Always rewash and put on new gloves when caring for a new patient.
  • Cover skin with protective clothing when anticipating contact with blood or saliva.
  • Wear mouth, nose and eye protection when performing a procedure that may cause the spraying of blood or saliva.
  • Remove all PPE prior to leaving the treatment area.

Focus on sharps safety

Accidents involving burrs, needles, scalers, knives, wires and other sharp objects are a preventable but unfortunately common occurrence in the dental setting.

Given that cuts caused by contaminated instruments can lead to infection, it’s best to consider all used sharps as infective and to treat them accordingly.

  • Never recap used needles with two hands. Use the one-handed scoop method or a device specifically designed for recapping needles.
  • Place all disposable sharps in puncture-proof containers. Place additional bio-hazard containers near all areas where sharps are used.

Sterilization of equipment

All reusable dental equipment comes with manufacturer recommended cleaning and disinfecting protocols. Keep a printed copy of these instructions on hand to ensure that all equipment is properly sterilized.

Disinfect equipment between patients and instruct personnel to wear appropriate PPE when handling contaminated instruments.

Infection control on environmental surfaces

All surfaces in the dental setting must be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

For contact surfaces that are difficult to clean, such as switches or equipment controls, use a surface barrier that can be replaced between patients. Clean and disinfect all non-barrier-protected clinical contact surfaces with an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant before a new patient enters the operatory.