The importance of effective infection control in the dental practice


  Posted by: Dental Design      9th July 2023

Effective infection prevention measures are crucial for running an efficient dental practice. It is important that every dental practice has protocols in place to ensure the decontamination of dental instruments to protect the health of the patients and the dental team. Ultimately, the aim of infection control is to prevent infections from spreading between the patient and the dental team as well as being transmitted to the dentist or dental technician through occupational exposure.[i] To minimise these risks, dental practices should follow best practice decontamination protocols, considering the equipment that they use and whether it is appropriate for their practice.

Preventing the spread of infection in the practice

In the dental practice, there are a number of opportunities for infections to be transmitted. These routes include having direct contact with another person’s blood, oral fluids, or other materials carrying infection, as well as indirect contact which may occur through contaminated instruments, surfaces, or equipment. These are in addition to the consequences of an infected person coughing, sneezing, or talking as this can result in contact with infected droplets.i Dental patients are considered to be high-risk, with a significant potential to transmit and acquire diseases. Because of this, it is important that dental practices consider how to most effectively protect the dental team from acquiring diseases and how best to minimise the risk of cross-contamination through dental instruments.i

Protecting patients and the dental team

For the safety of both their patients and the dental team, it is important for dental practices to have stringent measures in place to prevent cross-contamination. Dental practices should follow best practice for decontamination to successfully protect everyone in the practice. Effective decontamination of dental instruments is key for reducing the risk of cross-contamination in practice. Processing of dental instruments should include pre-soaking and cleaning, packaging, and sterilisation, ensuring that instruments are cleaned and decontaminated thoroughly. Following cleaning, they should be thoroughly checked, and processed again if results are not satisfactory, in preparation for sterilisation.[ii]

By complying with these measures and making sure that traceability is in place, dental practices help to ensure a high-quality of patient care, as well as protecting the health and wellbeing of the dental team. In addition to the decontamination of dental instruments, it is important that both patients and clinicians are provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) required in each procedure. For example, both the dentist and patients should wear protective eyewear during dental procedures, to protect the eyes from any bodily fluids. This is in addition to wearing protective clothing such as gloves when undertaking procedures and handling sterile equipment, and should be disposed of properly. The use of PPE should be accompanied by regular hand-washing and surface disinfection.[iii] It is important that dental practices do all they can to prevent the spread of infection, as this is much more straightforward than controlling the infection afterwards.iii

Effective equipment as a solution

The choice of equipment is crucial when carrying out instrument reprocessing. Some common methods of sterilisation include using steam, unsaturated chemical vapor, or dry heat. Each of these carry various different advantages, so it is important to establish which type of decontamination system would be most appropriate for each individual dental practice.ii To ensure that infection control processes run smoothly, dental practices should consider their specific needs. If they undertake regular decontamination of dental instruments, carried out quickly in between patients, they are likely to require a steriliser which can process smaller loads more quickly. On the other hand, if they are a larger dental practice who needs to process large loads at a time, a steriliser with a larger capacity may be necessary.

W&H offers a range of effective infection control solutions, enabling dental practices to run smoothly. Lisa B type vacuum sterilisers can meet the needs of busy practices, with cycle times from only 13 minutes, as well as EcoDry+ technology, which allows adaptation of the drying time to the mass of each load. The Lyla steriliser offers reliable, streamlined sterilisation processes and is upgradeable, catering to the specific needs of each practice and enabling teams to upgrade to a B cycle if required. Additionally, the Lara XL autoclave offers a large capacity, 28 litre chamber, with the ability to sterilise 2kg loads in 25 minutes. All W&H sterilisers offer the option for full traceability allowing the dental team to ensure that the correct process has been achieved.

By undertaking thorough cleaning, disinfection, and sterilisation processes, dental practices ensure that they are doing all they can to minimise the risk of cross-contamination in their dental practice. This helps to protect the safety of their patients, dental team, and lab technicians as all instruments, surfaces, and dental equipment will be sterilised thoroughly.

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[i] Upendran, Arunima, Ranjan Gupta, and Zachary Geiger. “Dental infection control.” StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing, 2022.

[ii] NHS England. Decontamination Health Technical Memorandum 01-05: Decontamination in primary care dental practices. Accessed April 23.

[iii] Dr. C. Habib. Infection Control & Prevention in Dental Practice. Accessed April 23.

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