Dental Infection Prevention and Control: Equal in Importance for Healthcare Providers and Patients?

By on 1:45 PM

A June article in the Dental Tribune titled "Infection control in dentistry has never been more essential" focuses on the safety of dental healthcare providers (DHCP). As reported in this article, "As stated in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their 2003 guidelines, the transmission of infectious disease can occur in four ways: direct contact with blood or body fluids, indirect contact with contaminated objects or surfaces, contact with bacterial droplets or aerosols, and inhalation of airborne micro-organisms." This accurately describes the risk to DHCPs, and it remains imperative they protect themselves from the hazards of occupational exposure at all times.

The article highlights many evidence-based strategies to protect DHCPs from such exposure and also include, for example, the Canadian Dental Association's recommendation of "running handpieces for 20-30 seconds after each treatment to purge all potentially contaminated air and water. This procedure has been proven to reduce the bacterial load in the water line significantly. Blood cells, as well as bacterial and viral particles, can survive inside handpieces even after disinfection. They must therefore be sterilized between patients."

Many articles, much like this piece, have been published that discuss the threat of infections to healthcare professionals, regardless of the setting, and the need for stellar practices including but certainly not limited to the use of personal protective equipment, also known as PPE. However, it is equally important to focus on the threat of transmission of bloodborne pathogens to patients in the dental setting.

In 2013 and the first two quarters of 2014, several potential patient-related exposures to bloodborne pathogens have occurred in dental practices across the nation (for just a few examples, see here and here), further emphasizing the critical need for "best practice" strategies in the dental community. This includes general dentistry and oral surgery.

Phenelle Segal is known nationwide for her expertise in assisting dental and oral surgery practices with developing, implementing and maintaining dental infection prevention and control programs and practices for the safety of patients and staff. She works directly with the client as well as the agencies to ensure appropriate practices are in place and compliance is monitored.

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, is the founder and president of Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS). Phenelle has more than 30 years' experience providing customized comprehensive infection control and prevention services to healthcare facilities nationwide. Her services focus on assisting hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental office and oral surgery practices, doctor's offices, nursing homes and other organizations with implementing and maintaining an infection control program that: complies with The Joint Commission, AAAHC, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies; respond to situations of noncompliance; and improve the processes for reducing risk.