Health officials in Oklahoma recently urged 7,000 dental patients to undergo medical tests to ensure they have not been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. The Oklahoma Board of Dentistry found enough infection control violations at Dr. W. Scott Harrington's practice to report a 17-count complaint against the dentist. Sterilization issues included the use of rusty instruments on infected patients and an autoclave that had not been checked in 6 years. The office did not have a written infection protection procedure, and Harrington left sterilization and drug procedures to his unlicensed staff.
Several organizations, including the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP), used this case to urge practices to continue their health and infection control standards.
According to the ADA, regulations for dental office inspections are determined on a state-by-state basis by the state dental board. The ADA recommends that all practicing clinicians use standard precautions as described in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Infection Control in Dental Health Care Settings guidelines.
The ADA shares examples of infection control in the dental office, including using gloves, surface disinfectants, and sterilizing reusable dental devices. Dental instruments should be cleaned and sterilized between patients. Items such as needles or gauze should be placed in special bags or containers for proper disposal. Members of the treatment team should scrub their hands and put on a new pair of gloves in between patients.
Dental teams can view more infection control procedures at www.ADA.org
In order to help clinicians speak with patients about infection control concerns, OSAP offers several useful tips:
- Explain that dental anesthetics are provided using sterile single-use needles and cartridges of anesthetic and that these items are properly discarded after each patient.
- Explain that if IV medications are used, those medications are either from single-dose vials or that multi-dose vials and are accessed only once with a single needle and syringe and that additional medications, even for a single patient, are drawn with a new syringe and needle.
- Explain of the sterilization process, including thorough cleaning, examination and then sterilization of instruments.
- Reassure the patient that all procedures requiring licensure or certification are provided only by professionals licensed to provide those services.
OSAP shares instructional content and educational resources for dental clinicians at www.OSAP.org
Monica Barudin is an Assistant Editor for Dental Product Shopper and Hygiene Product Shopper.