CHICAGO — The American Dental Association (ADA) wishes to assure the public that patient health and safety are top priorities for the Association. Every day, hundreds of thousands of procedures are performed safely and effectively thanks to the dentists who follow standard infection control precautions developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
All practicing dentists, dental team members and dental laboratories are required to use standard precautions as described in the CDC’s Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health Care-Settings. In March 2016, the CDC issued the “CDC Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings: Basic Expectations for Safe Care,” which combines the guidelines with an updated CDC summary. The guidelines and summary are a comprehensive and evidence-based source for infection control practices relevant to the dental office and help protect patients and health care workers by helping to prevent the spread of diseases.
Patients who have questions about infection control in the dental setting should talk with their dentists, who can explain or demonstrate their procedures. Examples of infection control in the dental office include the use of masks, gloves, surface disinfectants and sterilizing reusable dental devices. In addition, dental health care providers are expected to follow procedures as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to protect themselves.
Before a patient enters the examining room, all surfaces, such as the dental chair, dental light, instrument tray, drawer handles and countertops, are required to be cleaned and decontaminated. Some offices may cover this equipment with protective covers, which are replaced after each patient.
Non-disposable items like dental instruments are cleaned and sterilized between patients. Disposable dental instruments and needles are not to be re-used. In addition, CDC recommendations include guidance on best practices for water treatment and monitoring of dental unit waterlines (the tubes that connect dental instruments to the water supply).
Infection control precautions also require all dental staff involved in patient care to use appropriate protective wear such as gloves, masks, gowns and eyewear. After each patient, disposable wear, such as gloves, are discarded. Before seeing the next patient, the members of the treatment team cleanse their hands and put on new pairs of gloves.
For more information on infection control in a dental setting, please visit the ADA consumer website Mouthhealthy.org.