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Inside Dental Hygiene
June 2022

Infection Control

Michelle Strange, RDH

Inside Dental Hygiene (IDH): How have approaches to infection control in the dental office changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Michelle Strange, RDH: It shone a spotlight on the need to update procedures regarding aerosol and air quality management, hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, respiratory hygiene, sharps safety, operatory disinfection, and dental unit waterline maintenance. An additional measure that is vital for dental offices to adopt is the incorporation of a trained infection control coordinator (ICC), who would serve as the key team member to ensure that up-to-date infection mitigation protocols are being followed and guarantee compliance with current regulations.

IDH: What are the concerns with aerosols?

Strange: Because aerosols can remain suspended for up to 3 hours, it is crucial to perform a complete air change in the clinical space following each operation to minimize the risk of airborne infection, particularly if high-speed or ultrasonic devices were used. Reducing aerosol dispersion is possible by modifying dental treatment practices, such as through the use of the rubber dam, and employing engineering controls such as air filtration units.

IDH: How should dental unit waterlines be maintained?

Strange: Waterlines connecting dental units to handpieces such as air or water syringes and ultrasonic scalers are at risk of contamination due to the tubing and residual water, and therefore require regular upkeep. If a dental office is closed for a period of months, the waterlines will lie dormant, becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and requiring remedial work to return them to a safe standard. Continuing to carry out routine testing and shock treatments with high-level disinfectants is one of the most effective methods for removing dental unit biofilms without causing damage to the equipment.

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