Dental Office Sterility
Cleanliness and standardization of infection control procedures is a top priority in the dental office. This is because germs are responsible for a wide variety of diseases. Common infectious diseases caused by blood, saliva, or airborne droplets include the common cold (Rhino virus), tuberculosis, pneumonia, herpes, hepatitis, and HIV. Dentists and their staffs take many precautions to prevent the spread of infection from themselves to the patient, and vise-versa.
Dentists shield their patients and themselves from infections by using what is known as universal precautions. The philosophy of universal precautions assumes that any person who comes into a dental office for treatment is potentially infectious. With this in mind, dentists wash their hands before and after each patient is seen, use a new pair of gloves for each patient, wear clean protective gowns during treatment, and put on masks and protective eyewear. During treatment, high evacuation suction is used, barriers are placed in the patient’s mouth to isolate the area treated, and sharp instruments (needles and scalpels) are discarded into special medical waste containers after a single use. Before the next patient is seated, all surfaces within the treatment area are disinfected, and new plastic barriers are placed on equipment to protect surfaces used for patient care during treatment. Many items used during routine dental care (gauze, cotton rolls, bibs, cups, saliva ejectors, etc.) are disposable (used once per patient). Instruments that are not disposable (mouth mirrors, curettes, extraction forceps, etc.) are sterilized using either steam under pressure (autoclave), dry heat, chemical vapor, or ethylene oxide gas. Likewise, dental drills and waterlines undergo rigorous sterilization procedures. These methods effectively kill all forms of microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and spores.
Dentists take the care and safety of their patients very seriously. Infection from a dental office is extremely rare, patients should always ask their dentist or other dental office personnel if they have any questions about their office’s infection control procedures.