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Do it well or not at all?

21 January 2016

Do it well or not at all?

We may be able to apply this motto to many things in our every day lives, but there is also an element of truth to it for infection control protocols in the dental practice.

While it is obviously never advisable to ignore all decontamination processes, if they are not performed diligently and thoroughly, the risk of cross-contamination remains high. After all, it only takes one small area to be forgotten when cleaning and disinfecting the practice for bacteria to reproduce rapidly and infect the next patient to visit.

Data for the spread of infections, viruses or bacterium in the dental practice is relatively scarce[i]. However, it is believed that cross-transmission in dentistry is often under-reported and a number of cases are likely to go unacknowledged by patients, healthcare workers and authorities. Similarly, researchers recently found that although it was not possible to ascertain the main source of infections like staphylococci to patients or dental professionals, dominant hands and clinical contact surfaces were frequently contaminated within the dental setting[ii].

In fact, hand hygiene has been identified as one of the most vital infection-control areas and should be addressed as such. Every dental practice must therefore have an effective hand hygiene policy in place to limit the spread of any diseases. Other areas for concern include worktop and equipment surfaces, including those of digital and mobile devices, and hidden areas like dental unit waterlines.

In addition, sterilisation and disinfection of dental instruments is crucial. Effective measures need to be in place to safely and successfully remove all viable organisms, including bacterial spores from equipment.

Utilising proven products is fundamental to protect against a vast range of infections and ensure a safe environment for all. Features of these products such as smell, strength, corrosive potential and contact time for effectiveness should be cognised in order to identify the most suitable.

The risk of cross-contamination is continually present in the dental setting, where the pathways of contamination can be diverse. Maintaining rigorous infection control procedures is essential to protect both patients and the dental team against the risk of cross-contamination. Remember – this is a job that must be done well in order to really ensure a safe environment for all.

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[i] Laheij, A. M., et al. (2012). Healthcare-associated viral and bacterial infections in dentistry. Journal of Oral Microbiology, 4.

[ii] Giuseppe, M. A., et al. (2013). Environmental and gloves’ contaminated by staphylococci in dental healthcare settings. Acta stomatologica Naissi, 29, 1255-1259.

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