Infection control has always been a focus of the American Dental Association and the dental schools, however, it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that the general public really became aware of the issue.
The 1980’s brought AIDS to the public consciousness.
And with AIDS many people became aware of “universal precautions.”
Universal precautions mean that, to protect all patients and health care providers, every patient is treated as if he is a carrier of an infectious disease.
In 2020, the COVID-19 virus arrived, making universal precautions even more important.
Dental offices worldwide had to revisit infection control protocols and determine how to adapt universal precautions in a pandemic world.
While we do our best to ensure that no COVID positive person enters our office (pre-screening, temperature checks, etc.), we treat the patients as if they have it.
Surprisingly, many of our protocols remain the same with minor adjustments.
Although the agents we always used to clean the treatment room easily kill the corona virus on surfaces, we allow more time between patients for a more thorough cleaning.
The major concern in the dental office is the production of aerosols.
To minimize the aerosols, which carry the virus, we put multiple air purifiers in place and added a new intra-oral suction system to limit the amount of aerosol that escapes the patient’s mouth.
In the pandemic world, everyone in the office should be masked.
The dentist and clinical staff wear fresh gloves to treat each patient, in addition to face shields and gowns over the scrubs.
All instruments are disposable or sterilized, using heat and/or chemicals.
The treatment room is thoroughly cleaned between patients, using special chemical agents.
In my office, the sterilization bags with the clean instruments are opened in the treatment room, in front of the patient.
This is a subtle way to show the patient that infection control is our first priority.
As a patient, you have a right to ask about infection control protocols in the office.
The dentist or staff should be more than willing to show you the sterilization area and explain what steps they take to protect your health.
If you wonder at all about your dental office’s infection control plan, be proactive and ask questions.
There is one rule of thumb that is a good indicator.
A meticulously clean dental office shows the attention to detail that will put your mind at ease.
When it comes to infection control, every detail matters!
PHOTO CAP: The sterilization area is central to safety at BCDD