Decontamination practices for a clean dental practice

Ron Brown offers guide to dental infection prevention, maintaining a clean and germ-free environment for patients and staff.

On average, a dentist sees 10 to 15 patients per day. These patients expect high-quality care, starting in a clean, contamination-free environment, even if there is little to no time between appointments.In the dental and healthcare industries, clean and uncluttered medical facilities can hinder a patient's willingness to receive necessary treatment

From office administrators to dental hygienists and even the dentists themselves, every employee has a role to play in upholding industry hygiene standards to help ensure these expectations are met. However, as stated by the Ministry of Health in Health Technical Memorandum 01-05 guidance, dental practices should have a designated key staff member responsible for infection control and decontamination.

When cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and patient care areas, three scenarios should be considered:

  1. Possibility of direct patient contact
  2. Level and frequency of hand contact
  3. Surfaces or areas may be contaminated with body substances or microbial environmental sources such as soil, dust, or water.

With these factors in mind, dental infection prevention coordinators can implement several guidelines and strategies to establish a sterile environment for patients and staff.

Regularly disinfect frequently touched areas and objects

Disinfection or sterilization is the first step in cleaning a healthcare facility. To ensure that high-touch surfaces are maintained regularly, infection prevention coordinators should consider establishing a cleaning checklist.

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Keep bathroom hygienic

Unhygienic bathrooms are a major source of infection spread. In a dental office, the condition of available restrooms can be a profound reflection of the facility's dedication to cleanliness and patient care. Keeping restrooms stocked with toilet paper and other essentials helps show that hygiene is a priority for staff and patients.

Adding surfaces such as toilet seats, sink tops, door handles, and faucets to your office's disinfection list is important to prevent the spread of potential infectious diseases and other common contaminants.

High-traffic facilities should also consider involving third-party vendors and invest in stronger, more effective cleaning methods. A study conducted in 2021 reported that UV-C technology, fogging, and electrostatic sprayers have proven effective in mitigating infectious diseases in healthcare settings, including dental offices.

Manage patient health screenings

In the wake of the pandemic, most healthcare facilities have implemented patient screening to help eliminate health risks before patients enter the facility. This strategy is arguably the easiest to implement and can be as simple as an online questionnaire prompted during login.

Patient screening is becoming a common practice in all areas of healthcare. If a patient with the flu, COVID-19, or any other contagious disease sits in a waiting room with several other patients, that person may infect others. Policies that help prevent sick staff or patients from contaminating healthcare facilities are critical to maintaining a sterile environment.

Align disinfection procedures with industry standards

Industry-specific standards help provide structural guidelines for healthcare facilities to follow when it comes to patient care and safety. The standards also provide useful educational resources that can improve employees' overall understanding of the importance of infection control and prevention in the workplace.

Of note, these guidelines often specify certain immunizations required of dental personnel, including diseases commonly transmitted in practice, such as hepatitis B.

These protocols and practices are critical to establishing an environment where patients and staff feel safe and where their health is a priority. While many factors cannot be controlled when it comes to preventing infection, including the external environment and exposure, these key strategies can help mitigate its impact by creating a sterile environment.

Dental care professionals and all medical professionals have a responsibility to assist in eliminating potential health threats to their staff and patients. With the proper tools and resources, dental offices can maintain and exceed industry hygiene standards.

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