Infection Control – What Happens Behind the Scene

When someone walks into one of our treatment rooms for a dental appointment, much has been happening in advance of that moment. Your dental team has prepared for your care using systems that break the chain of any infection from patient-to-patient, patient-to-provider and provider-to-patient. Some things are visible and obvious while others are not, yet all are important in keeping everyone in the room healthy.

Metal instruments such as dental handpieces (drills and polishers) and the hand instruments (such as mouth mirrors) that your dental team uses during appointments have all been cleaned in an ultrasonic tank to remove any debris and then sterilized using a steam autoclave, which uses high heat and steam to kill any microbes present on instruments. The autoclave itself is monitored with an indicator in every sterilizing cycle to make sure it reached the correct temperature. It is also tested weekly with a biologic test to make sure that difficult bacteria and viruses have been killed. Once sterilized, the instruments are kept in a clean, dry cabinet until they are set out for a procedure.

Not all items used during a dental appointment can be put through a sterilizer, so other components of care require different means to prevent cross-contamination.  Surfaces such as chairs, countertops, x-ray machines, and equipment tubing are disinfected using a hospital-grade disinfectant. Surfaces are sprayed with disinfecting solution, wiped down to removed any debris and then sprayed again. While we try to minimize single-use plastics in order to protect our environment, some equipment that is difficult to disinfect or sterilize may be covered with a plastic barrier, or itself be a disposable item that is never reused.

Of course, dental team members wear new clean, disposable gloves and masks with each patient. They disinfect their hands before and after gloving and degloving. Our HVAC system has ionic cleaners installed in the system that disinfect our air. All these measures are the basics of keeping everyone in the dental environment as healthy as possible. If you have questions about our systems, please feel free to ask us.