and safety

Hygiene and disinfection in the dental practice

How to prime a dental practice and make it safe

In a dental practice, cleaning and disinfecting the surrounds, work area and equipment is fundamental for guaranteeing the safety of both healthcare professionals and patients. Biological risk stems from the presence of an array of microorganisms, such as bacteria, cells and viruses which can contaminate air, water and work surfaces. The task is to counteract the bacterial count, thus keeping the risk of infection at bay.

Dentists and their helpers must carry out thorough cleaning activities, using appropriate antiseptic solutions and detergents. These must involve:

Disinfection of surfaces and the work area in the dental practice

These surface areas which are more prone to biological contamination must be disinfected after each single session. One important reason for this is because high-speed rotary instruments and air-water sprays can propel microparticles in the air which contain infectious agents. Therefore, anywhere within the reach of spatter (blood or saliva) and aerosol spray should be covered with transparent (polyethylene) film to reduce any risk of environmental contamination. Each time a patient leaves, the protective films must be replaced and the surface areas cleaned and disinfected.

A combined usage of high-speed aspirators and rubber dams (whenever possible) reduces the risk of environmental contamination from aerosol sprays, droplets of saliva and blood spatter. To contain the risk of pointlessly contaminating other containers and surfaces during dentistry work, everything you need should be placed within hand’s reach prior to the session.

Equipment disinfection in the dental practice

As said before, non-sterilisable and non-replaceable equipment must be disinfected by using an alcohol-based disinfectant (spray or solution) and wiped by following a wet-dry procedure (wipe with a moist disposable cloth, wait and then dry with another disposable cloth).

Disinfection must be done on:

  • the headrest of the dental chair
  • the keyboard on the dental unit
  • the operation-light handles on the dental unit
  • the light switches on the dental unit
  • the commands on the x-ray system

Here too, whenever possible, it is always a good idea to cover the apparatus with some transparent film, changing it and disinfecting between patients.

Disinfection of the dental unit and the water-supply system

The dental unit and its water-supply system must also be treated so as to reduce the bacterial load. The frequency is variable and depends on how much it is actually used. Here are some routine actions which help to keep bacterial load from accumulating as the dental unit and its water-supply system are used:

  • if the water-supply system has no internal disinfection system, spin the turbine for at least 20 seconds “between patients” so that any potentially contaminated water runs off
  • use intraoral, autoclavable or disposable items
  • at the start of the working day, drain off all the water inside the system because any long pauses between one job and another may lead to a stagnation of the water inside the pipes and unwanted microbial flora may develop
  • replace the aspiration tubes, aspirator tips and cuspidor plugs.

Disinfection of the surrounds in the dental practice

This must take place on a daily basis using specific detergents, such as bactericides, fungicides, viricides or microbactericides. Between one patient and another, the room must be aerated, medical waste must be removed and the floors must be cleaned. To speed things up and save time, disinfectant sprays can be used because they reach the most difficult spots. Periodically, a general spring clean must be carried out and furniture and other objects must be moved, so that everywhere can be disinfected and all surfaces can be got at.

The choice of a disinfectant to make the dental practice clean and safe must take into account its intended use. The market offers disinfectants for soaking, disinfectants in solution or disinfectant sprays for surfaces. By choosing the right disinfectant or combining the use of more than one type, you can make sure the premises are clean and safe for your patients.