With COVID-19, many dental practices were only open for emergency services. As things slowly open up, patients are concerned about their safety and want to make sure that they’re safe when they go to their dental office. Dr. Brent Engelberg of AH Smiles, a dentist in Arlington Heights, IL, discusses the dental office sterilization protocols that AH Smiles will be following.
Following the CDC and ADA Guidelines
The CDC and ADA have worked together since 1993 to make sure infection control and dental sterilization guidelines for the dental industry are current, updated, and the best they can be. Techniques are constantly being reviewed to ensure they’re the highest quality. A 2016 document for the dental industry is filled with checklists and tools that help dentists and their staff follow all of the correct protocols.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is used to protect both our patients and our staff. One of the most important pieces of PPE equipment is a pair of gloves. These are changed between patients to make sure to avoid a risk of cross-contamination. Sometimes, depending on the dental services being performed, they may be changed multiple times with one patient. Touching surfaces is avoided and proper handwashing techniques are used before putting the gloves on.
Other equipment is also used for safety. Bibs are provided to the patient to make sure bodily fluids aren’t on the clothing or other parts of the body. Clothing is worn by staff to avoid contamination as well. Eye protection was always a part of dental PPE, but COVID-19 protocol recommends a full-face shield for all medical professionals. This prevents contamination from both ends.
Sterilization and Disinfection
Due to the nature of dental procedures, some of the equipment has to be reused with patients. This means it has to meet the highest standards of sterilization. High-risk instruments, such as those used for surgery or periodontal therapy, are sterilized with heat, the most efficient form. Many lower-risk tools are sterilized this way as well, due to their ability to withstand higher temperatures.
For surfaces that just come into contact with skin, such as dental chairs or blood pressure cuffs, they’re wiped down with disinfectant. This is also true of other surfaces throughout the dental exam room. High-traffic areas like the reception desk and waiting room are wiped down as well. With some other tools, we use disposable options. This way, every patient can know that they’re getting a fresh new set.
With COVID-19, some extra precautions may be in place. A limited number of people will be allowed in the waiting room at one time. You may have to wait in your car for us to come and get you. Temperature checks may be required to enter the dental office. You may also be required to sanitize your hands upon coming into the office.
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