Thursday, April 11, 2013

Conversations with your Dentist About Office Safety

By: Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer, DentaQuest

Following the recent news about unsanitary conditions in one Oklahoma dental office, you may have wondered – if even for a second—what your dental office is doing to ensure you are receiving the best and safest dental care. Healthy teeth and gums are essential to your overall health. Dentists take their role to keep you healthy very seriously; this includes proper infection control. Your safety and well-being are their priority.

At DentaQuest, we encourage patients to have an open dialogue with their dental care team about their care; sanitation and safety concerns should be part of that. Often, as patients we become so wrapped up in the services we are receiving that we forget to ask questions to make us feel comfortable about the care. It's okay to ask your dentist about sanitary procedures of his or her office.

Here are questions to discuss with your dentist prior to your service:

  • What is the sterilization process? How are non-disposable items, like the dental tools, cleaned and sterilized between patients?
  • Are dental anesthetics provided using sterile, single-use needles and cartridges of anesthetic? Are these items properly discarded after each patient?
  • If IV medications are needed, are the medications from single-dose vials or from multi-dose vials? How do they manage sterile procedures when using multi-dose vials? 
  • Does your dentist follow the evidence-based infection control precautions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?
  • Are all procedures requiring licensure or certification provided only by licensed professionals?

And here are some important things you can look for:

  • Are the dental instruments that will be used during your visit maintained in sterile pouches until they are used? The office staff may unwrap them just prior to your entering the room while setting up for your procedure so confirm that they were sterilized and protected prior to your arrival.
  • Are disposable items like needles or gauze placed in special bags or containers?
  • Does the dental staff use appropriate protective garb such as gloves, masks, gowns and eye wear?  Ask how they clean or dispose of these items between patients.

The case in Oklahoma is unfortunate. However, it is not at all representative of the vast majority of dental offices that adhere to the highest standards of sanitation and infection control.