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    4 extreme measures taken in the name of infection control

    Sometimes dental practices make their lives more difficult than they need to.



    Extreme individual attention

    While Braendle’s experience was somewhat unique because there were no established protocols in place for AIDS patients at the time, standard protocols do exist.

    Dr. Marie Fluent, DDS, an educational consultant for the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP), recounts an incident that occurred while she was in practice. After seeing a patient who was a hepatitis B carrier, she observed an assistant going to unusual lengths to clean and sterilize.

    “After the procedure, I was in the sterilization room and saw my dental assistant processing instruments in a way that was not familiar to me,” Dr. Fluent remembers. “And I asked her, ‘What are you doing?’ She was doing things that she considered above and beyond the call of duty because he was a hepatitis B carrier.”

    She was wrapping the instruments first and then sterilizing them, unwrapping them, then washing them, then putting them through the ultrasonic, and then rewrapping and sterilizing again.

    More from the author: 10 easy ways to get CE credit

    “The assistant considered that to be above and beyond the call of duty, as an extra-safe measure,” Dr. Fluent says. “So, I looked at her and said, ‘What about Standard Precautions?’ And, as you know, Standard Precautions mean that we treat all patients and all dental instruments exactly the same way each and every time, no matter what the medical history says. She said, ‘I understand Standard Precautions, but this time we know that he’s a hepatitis B carrier.’”

    Dr. Fluent and her assistant continued their discussion about the meaning of “Standard Precautions,” with the assistant maintaining that – in this case – something extra was necessary.

    “We went back and forth like that several times and finally she said, ‘Okay, I get it,’” she adds. “I found that interesting because we worked together for 15 years and I thought she understood Standard Precautions, since she attended a formal dental assisting program and was trained by me. Yet, she thought her extra precautions were in all our best interests. But the reality is, if you deviate from Standard Precautions, your instruments are not processed the same each and every time, and you’ve totally thrown the concept out of the window.”

    It became a teachable moment at her practice and an opportunity to revisit the concept of “Standard Precautions” with everyone.

    “When it comes to compliance it’s everybody’s responsibility,” Dr. Fluent says. “You have to create a culture of safety, so everybody feels free to talk about anything within the infection control program. And if I did bring up a compliance-related topic at a meeting, I wasn’t reprimanding or embarrassing her in front of her colleagues. Everybody should feel free to comment and share and help each other with compliance and nobody should be feeling singled-out or threatened at all.”


    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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