By Dr. Yasmeen Shareef, D.D.S.

In today’s world there is increased awareness, cautiousness, and dialogue about germs, potential for infection and spread of disease. People use antibacterial products, and commonly carry hand sanitizers. In this atmosphere it is not surprising that there would be concern about the safety precautions undertaken by dentists in their practices.

Patients want to know how the dental staff will ensure that they are protected and what measures are taken to prevent the spread of disease. They want to know what regulations are in place to ensure that the office is compliant with those regulations.

In the past, pre-HIV awareness, many dentists did not wear gloves, masks, eye-wear or gowns. Today these barriers are required by law in all dental practices. Strict infection control is mandated by agencies such as centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Dental Association (ADA).

Infection control (safety precautions) is implemented to ensure that there is no contamination of instruments, equipment, or supplies. Disposable items are used whenever and wherever possible. These items are discarded after one time use. Gloves are changed between patients and anytime an item needs to be touched that may get contaminated. All of our biohazard wastes (such as needles, blades and hazardous materials) are disposed of in puncture resistant containers and collected by a certified biohazard waste company.

All instruments that come into contact with blood and saliva are sterilized, after being washed, in special machines such as an autoclave or chemiclave. All surfaces in the operatory are wiped with disinfectant to destroy all forms of microbes that may be present due to aerosols created while the drill or cavitron are in use. Disposable barriers are used to ensure a germ-free environment.

Patients are draped and offered eye protection. Dental professionals wash their hands frequently and are vaccinated against Hepatitis B to prevent the potential spread of the disease. Offices are inspected by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and personnel are trained. Patients can be assured that if there are any questions they can ask the office and even be shown the sterilization equipment/area.

We must advocate for a clean environment, clean and safe places of public service, especially places where healthcare is provided.