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Infection Control in the Dental Office

dental tools
Creative Commons image by Luis Tamayo.

Whenever you visit a health care provider, you have the expectation that the instruments and exam room are clean and sanitized.  You might wonder how such a feat is accomplished in a dental office, where somewhat invasive procedures are performed every hour of the workday. You’ll be happy to know that we take infection control very seriously, and that dental offices have approved methods in place for being sure that everything is sanitized and sterilized to keep patients safe. Here are some of the ways that we ensure your health and safety when it comes to preventing the transmission of everything from the common cold to severe diseases like HIV or hepatitis.

Personal Protection Equipment

You’ll notice that your dentist, hygienist and assistant wear personal protection equipment every time they work on you (and on ever other patient). Depending on the procedure, these might include gloves, masks, eye protection and even gowns. While this equipment is meant to protect the staff members, it also protects you: If your health care providers stay healthy, they aren’t going to pass illnesses onto patients. By reducing the risk of them catching respiratory illnesses or stomach viruses, they also reduce your risk of acquiring the same sicknesses.

Hot and Cold Sterilization

Any instruments and handpieces that go into your mouth are sterilized between each use. Most instruments can go through an ultrasonic cleaner before sterilization. The ultrasonic cleaning machine uses vibration to remove debris. Then, one of two sterilization methods are used, depending on the type of instrument:

  • Cold sterilization solution. Instruments that can’t be exposed to high heat levels sit in a cold sterilization solution overnight. All bacteria, viruses and fungi are killed by the solution itself.
  • Autoclave. Instruments that can withstand high levels of heat go into an autoclave, just like medical instruments used at the hospital. The extremely hot temperatures kill any microbes on the instruments.

When possible, disposable instruments are used; these are thrown out after each patient.

Equipment in the Exam Rooms

Some items can’t be put in an autoclave or cold sterilization solution. These include the dental chair, the lamp and the cords that the handpieces are attached to. We have two ways of keeping these sanitized between each patient:

  • Sanitizing Spray: The dental chair and counters can be sprayed with a cleaning solution that kills microbes on contact. They are then wiped down with paper towels.
  • Sanitizing Wipes: Some items, such as the dental lamps, should not be sprayed; for these, we use wipes with a microbe-killing solution already on them.

Also, we use plastic covers when possible to prevent any contact from being made with surfaces. These covers are changed in between each patient.

If you have questions about the infection control procedures used in our office, please do not hesitate to ask. We want you to be as comfortable as you are safe while in the dental chair.

Call 919.388.3111 to make an appointment or

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