With COVID-19, dental practices were closed or limited to just emergency dental services. With offices slowly opening back up, patients want to know that they’re safe when they go to the dentist’s office. Dr. Mark Sowell of Sensational Smiles, a dentist in Plano, TX, discusses the infection control measures in his dental practice and why patients can be reassured that they’re safe.
Following the CDC and ADA Guidelines
Since 1993, these two agencies have been working together to create, update, and rehaul infection control guidelines for the dental industry. It’s necessary for them to keep on top of things as sterilization techniques update and change. A 2016 guide is often used as the go-to document for dentists. It contains tools and checklists so that they can make sure they’re following all of the required guidelines for sterilization and infection control.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is used to protect both the patients and the staff. One of the important parts of PPE is a pair of gloves. These are changed between patients and sometimes even multiple times with the same patient, depending on the dental services being performed. They’re changed when coming into contact with other surfaces, like the counter or computer. Proper handwashing techniques are followed both before and after putting on gloves.
Eye protection is normally required for our staff. However, with COVID-19, this level of protection has been stepped up. Instead of goggles or glasses, along with face masks, a full-face shield is recommended for medical professionals. This protects bodily fluids from passing between the patient and staff at all.
Sterilization and Disinfection
With the nature of dentistry and the many procedures our office performs, it’s necessary that some dental instruments are reused between patients. High-risk tools like those used for oral surgery or periodontal therapy require the most stringent level of sterilization — heat. This is also used for lower-risk tools as well, as most of them are able to take on the heat required for sterilization.
With other tools and instruments, disposable ones are used. This ensures that each patient gets a new set of tools that have never been used before. For surfaces that lightly come into contact with skin, like blood pressure cuffs and dental chairs, these will be wiped down with disinfectant. This is also true of high-traffic areas like surfaces in the waiting room and reception desk.
Due to COVID-19, stricter protocols may also come into play. A limited number of people will be allowed in the waiting room. You may be asked to wait in your car until we come to get you. Temperature tests may be required before entering the building. We may also ask you to sanitize your hands upon coming into the practice.