It’s rare now to encounter a news story about an infection spreading among a group of dental patients — a rarity thanks to the development of standards and procedures for infection control. As these standards have improved over the last few decades, the prevention of infection stemming from dental treatment has become more effective and easier to perform.
Like other healthcare providers, dentists are held (and hold themselves) to a high legal, moral and ethical standard to stop the spread of infection among their patients, and both governmental authorities and professional organizations mandate safety procedures. The United States Center for Disease Control regularly publishes recommendations for disinfection and sterilization procedures for all healthcare providers and facilities, including dental clinics. Dental and medical licensing bodies in each U.S. state also mandate control procedures and have made continuing education on infection control a condition of re-licensure.
For both medical and dental facilities, blood-borne pathogens represent the greatest risk of infection. These viral infections spread through an infected person’s blood coming in contact with the blood of an uninfected person, via a cut or a needle injection site. One of the most prevalent of these blood-borne diseases is hepatitis. This disease, which can severely impair the function of the liver and could be fatal, is caused by either of two viruses known as HBV and HCV. Any medical facility that encounters blood through needle injection or surgical procedures (including blood transfusion and surgical centers, and dental offices) must have a high degree of concern for controlling the spread of hepatitis and similar viral diseases.
Infection control protocols cover all aspects of potential exposure, including protective wear for workers and patients, proper disposal of contaminated refuse and disinfection of instruments and facilities. These comprehensive procedures not only keep patients safe from viral exposure, they also protect healthcare providers who experience greater exposure and risk for infection than the patients they serve.
Thanks to this strong emphasis on infection control, your dental visits are reliably safe. If you do have concerns, though, about the risk of infection during a dental visit, please let us know — we’ll be happy to discuss all we do to protect you and your family from infection.
If you would like more information on infection control, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”