What Infection Control Precautions are in Place at Your Dentist Office?

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Infection Control Precautions and Guidelines

Do you know anyone that likes going to the dentist? I certainly don’t! Even when the dentist happens to be a friend and practices proper dental infection control precautions and guidelines.

While we often think of our dentist’s office as being a sanctuary against potential infections, the truth is that many outbreaks occur in these very places and patients can have a reason to fear the dentist chair. The fact is, most dentist’s offices offer a clean, sterilized place to conduct their medical practices. However, recent outbreaks of bacterial and viral infections in dentist offices that have pointed to practices that do not practice proper infection control guidelines and precautions which should raise concerns for all patients.

It actually is not difficult to spot potential concerns in your dentist’s offices if you take the time to look. What follows are a few things you can do to lessen the threat of contracting an infection by spotting potential issues in your doctor’s or dentist’s offices.

Look Over the Office

The first step in checking out the infection control precautions and guidelines is doing a cursory examination of the office. This inspection starts when you walk through the front door and continues as you progress into the examination rooms.

What should you be looking for when going through the office:

How neat and clean is the office?
Are the counter tops cluttered with items?
Does the dental chair and light appear clean?
Are there Carpets? Carpets cannot be sterilized, but linoleum floors can.
Are there special containers for the disposal of needles and other items?

These are the basics that you should look for when going through your dentist’s offices when you visit. If you spot any of the potentially troubling concerns, be sure to raise them with the dentist before you proceed.

Examine the Instruments & Practices

One advantage in today’s “disposable” world is that many instruments are used one-time-only, making it very difficult for any infections to spread. Does your dentist use disposable instruments that come into contact with your body?

Look at the way the doctor or dentist puts on their gloves. Generally speaking, gloves are used only once and never again. However, a doctor or dentist should not touch items other than those they use on you, otherwise they risk contamination.

Obviously, some instruments are not disposable, so they must be sterilized. You can see where these non-disposable instruments are kept, which should be in a separate, isolated area of the room so they can be sterilized.

Most dentist practices will choose to cover equipment and surfaces and disinfect others between patients while some dentist practices will disinfect all equipment and surfaces between patients.

Question your dentist about the infection control precautions taken

If you are uncomfortable or unclear with the precautions your dentist office is taking question your dentist or dentist assistants about your concerns and ask them what they doing to protect you.

Be direct, ask about the infection control procedures and guidelines followed in the office.

Are the examination or operating rooms cleaned between patients?
Do they sterilize all instruments including dental drills between patients
Where and how are instruments sterilized?
How do they know the heat sterilizer is working? How often is it monitored?
When last was their practice evaluated by an infection control specialist?
Do a background check of the office with their governing body.
In accordance with American Dental Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSAP recommendations, your dentist should be heat-sterilizing all instruments that penetrate or contact a patient's oral tissues. While autoclaves are most commonly used to sterilize instruments, some dental offices may use other types of heat sterilizers.

These are just a few steps you can take in order to evaluate the procedures and guidelines for infection control at your dentist office. By taking just a few moments, you can spot potential issues that may prevent a viral or bacterial infection from occurring.


Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS) is a nationally renowned consulting firm offering expert infection prevention services to a variety of health care facilities and organizations.ICCS can help you implement and maintain an infection control program that complies with The Joint Commission, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and other regulatory agencies, respond to situations of noncompliance, and improve the processes for reducing your healthcare practice risk.