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Keeping Your Patients Safe: Proper Dental Practice Infection Control Procedures

Proper infection control is a top priority of any dental practice to ensure the health of a patient is not compromised and to prevent the spread of disease and germs. Each dental practice must meet compliance and standards outlined by their state dental board. Achieving infection control is just the tip of the iceberg – it’s imperative to keep accurate and timely documentation of your dental office’s infection control policy and manual, staff training log, equipment and tool sterilization reports, etc.

Aside from maintaining the health of your patients and staff, having proper infection control protocol can safeguard your practice against retaliation. What kind of retaliation you may be asking? Disgruntled former employees. Time and time again, I’ve worked with clients who have experienced huge headaches because terminated employees alerted their respective state dental boards and made a claim on their former employer (insurance fraud, improper infection control procedures, etc.). State dental boards must investigate each claim they receive. Following a thorough weekly checklist of infection control activities can help keep your dental office up to date and ready for inspection at all times .

Infection Control Policies and Procedures Check List

  • Have a detailed infection control policy and manual for your dental practice printed and available for all staff members.
  • Keep a detailed training log that outlines each training, certification (i.e. CPR) staff member name and title, and their signatures confirming completion.
  • Keep a weekly log to record and stay consistent with sterilization testing of your dental equipment each week.
  • Some state dental boards provide an infection control manual. Obtain a copy online and use this manual as a guide to ensure compliance.
  • Plastic materials (i.e. x-ray holders) used to be the standard, but now tools must be autoclavable.
  • Never re-use disposable products. In attempt to save money, offices think they can wipe or spray these kinds of products for a second use.
  • Keep dental instruments in their sterilized bag up until they will be used on the patient. Reducing outside exposure will ensure proper infection control.
  • Always cover instruments, tools, and materials that may not be in use (i.e. containers for cotton balls). Aerosols can travel and stick to surfaces farther than expected.
  • Spend extra time wiping down every surface every time a patient is seen.
  • Keep your office’s ‘permissible practices document’ up to date. This document outlines all of responsibilities and tasks administered by each dental staff member.
  • Be sure to properly dispose of needles and biohazards, and keep documentation of removal.
  • Film x-rays are lined with lead – be sure to properly dispose of the lead foil. Additionally, save amalgam fillings for scrap metal.

Proper infection control management requires thorough documentation of your office’s day-to-day processes. Though infection control is expensive (I estimated it to cost $25/patient twenty years ago), it’s necessary for the health of patients, staff, and a well-run dental practice. Also remember, you don’t have to let the inspector in your office if they arrive unannounced. You can ask them to come back when the time is convenient for you.

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