The importance of infection control in Dental Practice
The risk of disease transmission is inherent to dental practice. This is because our field of surgery is awash in saliva which is usually contaminated in blood.
Healthcare associated infections are one the leading causes of death globally. And now, when the world is fighting with SARS-CoV-2, meticulous infection control is the need of an hour.
As highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, safety in the workplace is critical for dental healthcare workers (DHCW) and patients in the provision of care.
The good news is that dental care can be provided with a high degree of safety for the patient and therapist, provided that the tenets of modern infection control are adhered to.
The ultimate legal responsibility for implementing infection control programmes lies on the owner of the practice. Transmission of blood borne pathogens can normally be prevented through the use of standard precautions.
Disease Transmission in a Dental Setting:
Theoretically, almost any infectious disease could be transmitted in the dental setting, but there are a few diseases that are of special importance. These significant diseases include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and tuberculosis and of course the new coronavirus!
Infectious diseases spread by direct contact between individuals, via air-borne droplets, or by contact with fomites such as contaminated surfaces or instruments. But a number of strategies are available to reduce the possibility of cross-infection.
Measures of infection control:
It is one of the simplest and yet one of the most important infection control measures. Therefore it is mandatory for all dental health care professionals to develop good hand hygiene habits.
For general patient care, hands should be washed with an antimicrobial soap when visibly soiled. If the hands are not soiled, an alcohol-based hand sanitizers may be used instead. Studies indicate that hand sanitizers are very effective and may be less irritating than some antiseptic soaps.
- Before and after treating each patient (before glove placement and after glove removal).
- After bare hand touching of inanimate objects likely contaminated by blood, saliva, or respiratory secretions.
- Before leaving the dental operatory.
- When hands are visibly soiled; before re-gloving, after removing gloves that are torn, cut, or punctured.
- For oral surgical procedures, perform surgical hand antisepsis before donning
Surfaces in the dental treatment area are assumed to be contaminated due to the aerosols generated during dental procedures.
- Barriers should be used to protect clinical surfaces that cannot be easily cleaned.
- If any clinical surface cannot be covered with a barrier, then it must be disinfected using an EPA-registered disinfectant.
- Floors, walls, and sinks must be cleaned with detergent/water or an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant/detergent on a regular basis.
Prevention of disease becomes increasingly important in the current era of antibiotic resistance which has given rise to countless untreatable infections.
In view of current situation where people are spiraled into the ball of nerves due to fear of Covid-19, they need a constant re-assurance of safety. A dentist’s laser sharp focus on infection control will give patients the confidence to choose the right practice!
- Thomas MV, Jarboe G, Frazer RQ, et al. Infection control in the dental practice. Dent Clin North Am 2008;52:609–28.