heard about universal precautions. Can you tell me what they are?
are safety procedures established by the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention and the American Dental Association. They are used
for each and every patient to prevent the transmission of the
AIDS virus and other infectious diseases. These precautions require
all dental staff involved in patient care to use appropriate protective
garb such as gloves, and sometimes masks and eyewear. After each
patient visit, the gloves are discarded, hands are washed and
a new pair of gloves is used for the next patient.
you sterilize the instruments including the handpiece (drill)
after each patient?
According to a recent
study in the journal of the American Dental Association, virtually
all dentists sterilize their handpiece (drill) between patients.
Dental offices follow specific heat sterilization procedures which
are outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
and the American Dental Association. Disposable items, such as
needles and saliva ejectors, cannot be sterilized and are discarded
in special containers.
do you sterilize the instruments? Can you show me how it's done?
are cleaned and sterilized at very high temperatures after each
time they are used on a patient. Recommended sterilization methods
include: an autoclave (steam under pressure), a dry heat oven,
or chemical vapor (commonly called a chemiclave). The sterilization
equipment usually is not in the treatment room, but if you'd like
to see how and where it's done, ask the dental staff to show you.
do you clean and disinfect the examining room, and how often is
Before you enter the
examining room, all surfaces, such as the dental chair, dental
light, drawer handles and countertops have been cleaned and decontaminated.
Some offices may cover this equipment with protective covers,
which are replaced after each patient. Sharp items and anything
contaminated with blood or saliva are disposed of in special containers.
there other safety guidelines that dentists must follow?
Yes. OSHA, the federal
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has specific regulations
that protect employees from injury and illness in the work place.
These "safe workplace" regulations pertain to occupational settings,
including dental offices with one or more employees. While the
primary purpose of the regulations is to safeguard employees,
these procedures also protect the patient. For example, gloves
provide protection for both you and the dental team.
Don't let uncertainty
about safety keep you away from the dentist's office, or cause
anxiety while you're there, when a few minutes of conversation
with your dentist can set your mind at ease.
Your dental health
is too important to neglect. Remember to learn the facts about
your dentist's infection control procedures by starting with a
If you don't have a
dentist, you can obtain ADA referrals by contacting your local
dental society. The local dental society is usually listed in
the telephone directory under "dentist" or "association."
are the things to look for?
- Is the dental
office clean and orderly?
- Is the dental
staff helpful and willing to answer your questions?
- Do the dentist
and staff wear gloves and other appropriate
protective gear during all actual patient treatment?
- Do the dentist
and staff wash their hands before donning a clean pair of
- Do all surfaces
and equipment in the treatment room appear clean?
- Are needles and
other sharp items disposed of in special puncture-resistant
- Is everything
that is used in the patient's mouth either heat sterilized