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Safety in the Dental Office: Going Back to What We Already Knew

Image of Elizabeth Phillips
Elizabeth Phillips

As we slowly rebuild a “new normal” in the face of Covid-19, there are many questions surrounding what policies and procedures a dental practice needs to put into place in order to maintain the safety of its employees and patients.  Are there new OSHA regulations to be followed?  Which recommendations do we adhere to?  Are there tools in our toolbox already that we’ve forgotten about that will help reduce the risk of exposure?   

It is true there are still many unknowns surrounding Covid-19, but we actually do know a great deal about reducing the spread of infection and respiratory illness.  CentraVance Consulting’s principal consultant and compliance expert, Angela Simmons, believes that the current pandemic can be best met head on by a stricter adherence to the things we have supposed to have been doing all along. I repeat, things we should have been doing all along. 

In this post, we will highlight the top 5 things we should’ve already been doing in the first place that will best prepare us for having our dental employees remain healthy. 

1. DO NOT WORK SICK; DO NOT TREAT SICK PATIENTS. 

  • If an employee is sick or has a fever, they should not be working. Employers need a policy in place so that employees are not concerned about losing their job for being sick.  Additionally, the CDC has provided a table in which it lists varying illnesses and the time in which employees should remain out from work. 
  • Dentists should not treat patients who are ill.  This is true for patients who have a fever blister or a runny nose.  Dental offices do not have airborne isolation rooms nor are they set up to treat those with respiratory illnesses. These sick patients should be referred to their primary care physicians for their illness before they return to your dental office.

DOWNLOAD CDC SICK WAIT TIME LIST

 

2. REDUCE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THE DENTAL OPERATORY. 

 

The only person that should be in the dental operatory with clinical staff is the patient.  A patient should not be bringing their children or neighbor or best friend’s sister who wants to be a dentist when she grows up along with them. The spray and spatter zone from the mouth during dental procedures is 3 to 6 feet. And while we disinfect surfaces between patients, this does not include housekeeping duties such as the floor or walls that may be touched by children should they attend their parent’s appointment. 

 

 

3. PRE-SCREEN PATIENTS WHEN CONFIRMING DENTAL APPOINTMENTS. 

 

In order to access whether or not patients have respiratory distress or any other illness, it is best to ask pre-screening questions prior to the patient’s arrival to the dental office.  While many offices have transitioned away from calling patients to confirm appointments, it may be time to return to this practice.  During these phone calls, your staff can use screening questions to ascertain a patient’s health statusThis is not possible with a text or an email.  

 

 

 4. ALWAYS WEAR APPROPRIATE PPE. 

 

Current CDC guidelines state that clinical operatives within a dental practice wear eye protection, gloves, and a level three mask.  N95 masks are for those who know they are dealing with an infectious disease, and since we know you are not treating sick patients, N95 masks are not mandatory.  CentraVance also recommends knee length gowns vs waist length as well as a scrub caps.  Face shields are fine and can replace eye protection, but do not remove the requirement for a mask. 

 

Staff that are not clinical, such as front office staff, do not require Level 3 masks and these should be avoided so as not to create a shortage of appropriate PPE for your clinical staff.  CentraVance does, however, recommend cloth masks for front office employees.  

 

5. MAKE SURE YOUR EMPLOYEES KNOW YOUR POLICIES SURROUNDING INFECTION CONTROL, BLOOD BORNE PATHOGENS, HAZARD COMMUNICATIONS, EMERGENCIES, AND RADIATION SAFETY. 

 

Does your staff know who the compliance officer is?  Have your safety policies been updated?  Do staff even know where they are located so that they can be referenced in the event of need? Making sure that your staff is aware the safety policies and procedures has to be more than just checking a box. 

 

To learn more about these tips in greater depth, watch a webinar on preparing your dental practice to reopen or schedule a training session with Angela of CentraVance today! 


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