Dental Infection Prevention and Control Guidance

The purpose of infection control is to reduce the occurrence of infectious diseases. Infection prevention is everyone’s responsibility as is providing a clean and safe environment in which to treat patients.

Policies and procedures should be implemented with the goal of reducing Healthcare Associated Infection’s (HCAI’s)

Essential Infection Control Requirements in a Dental Surgery

Keeping up to date with new guidance and legislation in infection prevention and control highlights the key role the dental nurse will play in the infection prevention and control in the surgery and decontamination areas.

The General Dental Council (GDC) requests that Dentists (GDP) and Dental Care Professionals (DCP) complete 5 hours of verifiable training and updates in decontamination and disinfection (infection control) in a five year cycle.

The responsibilities lie in the protection of themselves, patients and colleagues they work with from the risks of infection.

Effective hand decontamination with washing or gelling of hands is essential before and after removal of personal protective wear, and on entering or leaving surgeries and decontamination areas. Colleagues should be encouraged in good hand hygiene regimes.

Ensure that nails are short and polish free to avoid bacteria underneath. Stoned jewellery should be removed. False nails should not be worn.  

To prevent transmitting bacteria, uniforms should be changed daily and protected with disposable aprons in all procedures where there is a risk of splashes or aerosols.

Wearing the correct PPE and giving protective eye and clothing protection to patients will prevent possible aerosol contamination from high speed turbines and ultrasonic cleaners.

Nurses should wear heavy duty rubber gloves when handling contaminated instrument to protect them from a sharps injury.

Surface disinfection is paramount to reduce transmission of infection within the surgery setting.

This includes wiping down work tops dental chair, and equipment after each episode of patient care. Surfaces should be free of free of visible dirt before disinfecting.

Maintaining a good environment within the surgery will make decontamination more effective.

Keep a tidy surgery and decontamination area by ensuring worktops are uncluttered with only necessary equipment out.

Report any issues around building decoration and fittings so that the environment can be maintained.

As much as possible surfaces should be smooth and free of abrasion.

Following a dirty to clean workflow in the process of decontaminating instruments will prevent cross contamination from dirty to clean instruments.

Inspect instruments to ensure that they are free from contaminates and in good working order.

Ensure the equipment used to decontaminate instruments is fit for purpose and works to its intended specifications.

Follow manufactures guidelines to the maintenance and testing of ultrasonic baths, washer disinfectors, hand piece sterilisation units and autoclaves. Logbooks provide evidence that the processes are performing correctly, signatures of staff members validate that the evidence is being reviewed.

Inoculation against Hepatitis B will protect the GDP/DCP should they sustain a needle stick or sharps injury from an infected patient. The employer has a duty of care to carry out a risk assessments around sharps and implement safer sharps or procedures where necessary. The employee has a responsibility to report any incidents of needle stick or sharps injuries.

Spillages can often happen and DCP’s should familiarise themselves with local protocols for clearing a bodily fluid spill. Take into consideration COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health) legislation. It is important to warn patients and colleagues about a spillage and ventilate the area before proceeding to use bleach based products. 

Handling clinical and hazardous waste should be part of a practice induction but if not request training around the types of waste produced and segregate safely. Ensure clinical waste and sharps bins waiting for collection are locked securely away from public areas. 

Both GDP’s and DCP’s should have an awareness of possible infection in every procedure carried out in their daily routine will reduce the risks of transmission of harmful microorganisms to themselves the patient and their colleagues.