Easy and actionable steps to effective infection control for the entire dental team
Growing up we are all taught to share our things. Share our toys, share our light and share our love. As dental professionals we are taught to share our knowledge and skilled services. Most importantly we learn that sharing our germs is never acceptable. Today we are going to break down the 3 main essentials to effective infection control to protect our patients, our co-workers, our guests and ourselves.
Essential number one: Handwashing. It is that simple.
According to the CDC “Hand hygiene is the first line of defense against a pandemic, the common cold, the flu, SARS, foodborne illnesses, and other infectious diseases. Adherence to proper hand hygiene is proven to prevent outbreaks in healthcare facilities, reduce transmission of antimicrobial resistant organisms and reduce overall infection rates.” Wow! First line of defense against a pandemic. That is heavy information as we navigate around and through the Corona virus pandemic.
Dental professionals ask me all the time, “What is the best way to wash hands? What soap? What hand sanitizer?” The answer is easy. The World Health Organization explored that question specifically. After gathering the research and subsequent opinions of more than 100 experts worldwide, the answer was clear: It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you do it. Warm water, cold water, this soap, that soap, does not matter. The resounding answer was a thorough 20-30 second washing is the number one and most effective first line of defense against a pandemic! Whoa! Dental professionals and humans everywhere on the planet—wash your hands! Pick your favorite soap, water temperature and wash them thoroughly!
Essential number two: Green Zone, Red Zone. Keep them separate.
The Green Zone is all the areas and items in your office that should always be uncontaminated. A few examples of Green Zone areas and items are the keyboard, mouse, clean side of the sterilization room, lead aprons, drawers, cupboards, storage areas, the front office and so on. The way to determine a Green Zone item or area is to discuss with your team the places that you would like to always be considered safe and free of contaminants. I recommend anything that cannot be properly disinfected always be in your Green Zone. Think about a keyboard, now type on that keyboard with bloody gloves, now wipe that keyboard off with a disinfecting wipe, next type on that keyboard for your next patient’s chart and imagine the red blood getting on your gloves from that last patient…. Keyboard equals Green Zone. Trust me on this one 😉.
The Red Zone is the inverse of the Green Zone! Would you ever set your apple on the rim of the clean toilet and then eat it? No! Of course not. Therefore, the Red Zone is to always be considered contaminated and unsafe for clean items and bare hands. This includes the dirty side of the sterilization room, the instrument cleaning ultrasonic and anything in the operatory once a patient appointment begins. Please include items like the patient suction, mirror and barriers. It is not uncommon to see someone grab a mirror real quick with a bare hand and use it in the patients’ mouth. Ewww! Two things wrong with that picture. One, do not use your bare hands to put anything in my mouth please. Number two, now your bare hand is contaminated, and you are ready to take whatever disease I had home. Yuck and double yuck. Please, no.
Essential number three: Personal Protective Equipment. Mandatory.
As I begin this section, I ask for an open mind and unruffled feathers. The information that I am going to provide is not my information. These are the requirements and laws coming from the governing bodies. They were designed and implemented to keep us all safe. I have personally cared for a patient that acquired Hepatitis C from a dental office in a neighboring state. The turmoil that comes from that type of a disease is horrific. As a fellow dental professional, my heart is broken for this person who has had a completely negatively altered life. We owe it to ourselves and our patients to do the right thing no matter what.
Start with a mask that can be adjusted to the shape of your nose and face. Next add safety glasses or loopes that can sit on top of the mask at the bridge of your nose (a good seal here prevents the annoying fog). Third step, don a lab jacket that you can remove to hug babies, eat lunch and drive home. Last wear a pair of gloves every time you touch the patient or anything that will go in their mouth. Also, wear gloves when handling anything that could potentially be contaminated. Remember that the gloves are for protection in all directions, not simply to keep your hands dry. I refer you to the sandwich line you were in yesterday at lunch where the food service worker took your friends money, blew their nose and then made your sandwich with the same gloves. This is not the place to reduce, reuse, recycle my friends. Last for PPE- it must always be either on or off. No halfies with masks under the chin and safety glasses to hold bangs back!
Dental professionals I invite you to keep it clean and keep it safe! Oh and, you guessed it- wash your hands!
All my wishes for you and yours to be well!