Infection control in Dental Healthcare
Infection prevention and control is required to prevent the transmission of communicable diseases in all health care settings. Infection prevention and control demands a basic understanding of the spread of diseases; risk factors that increase patient susceptibility to infection; and the practices, procedures and treatments that may result in infections.
How does your dentist protect you?
When you first sit in the dental chair, chances are the first thing you’ll see is your dentist washing his or her hands. Hands are washed at the start of the day, before putting on and taking off gloves and after touching any potentially contaminated surface.
Your dentist may use a variety of protective items that are used once and then thrown away, including gloves, masks, paper drapes, suction/ water tube tips and needles. Dentists and their assistants can use different kinds of protective gloves.
Latex or vinyl gloves are used for patient examinations and procedures and are worn whenever skin could be in contact with body fluids. Between patients, the gloves are thrown away, the hands washed and a new set of gloves used to treat the next patient.
For cleaning and sterilizing instruments, heavy rubber utility gloves are used. If you are allergic to rubber or latex, your dentist can wear nitrile gloves, which do not contain any latex rubber proteins etc.
Purpose of infection control in dental healthcare
The purpose of infection control is to reduce the occurrence of infectious diseases. These diseases are usually caused by bacteria or viruses and can be spread by human to human contact, human contact with an infected surface, airborne transmission through tiny droplets of infectious agents suspended in the air, and, finally, by such common vehicles as food or water.
In dental healthcare, transmission of infection may occur from the dentist to the patient, from the patient to the dentist or from patient to patient. Patient to patient transmission, although being reported only in medical settings so far, may potentially occur in dental practices.
How dentists prevent transfer of infection
Usually, dental instruments are placed in an ultrasonic bath that contain a detergent/ enzymatic cleaner, which vibrates and removes debris from the instruments. After rinsing, these instruments are placed in an autoclave to sterilize (through intense heat and pressure). Quality control of the autoclave is done weekly with bacterial spore testing. Disposable items and barriers are discarded. Needles and scalpel blades go into a sharps container. Amalgam waste is saved and discarded by a professional service that does annual cleaning of the amalgam separator (the amalgam stuff we drill out doesn’t go into regular waste for obvious reasons). Items like handpieces cannot go into an ultrasonic bath (for it can ruin costly equipment), but they do get lubricated and autoclaved. Surfaces (tables, chairs etc.) and others less critical items are wiped with disinfectant (Cavicide) that is bacterialcidal (including TB, HIV, Hep C)
Infection control in Healthcare
Infection control is a series of steps that healthcare facilities and hospitals take to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. It is estimated that approximately 1.7 million preventable illnesses are spread each year. To prevent further spreading of disease, steps that many facilities take include:
- Ensuring hand hygiene compliance
- Tracking staff contact with assets and patients
- Ensuring appropriate environmental conditions for medication, vaccines and biological material